The Leafs quest to fulfill wantaway defenseman Nikita Zaitsev’s trade request appears to have been completed. Pending a July 1st bonus payout, Zaitsev should be off to Ottawa for the rights to RFA Cody Ceci. Oh, and they resigned Martin Marincin for defensive depth as well.
A messy situation with Ceci
On paper, the deal seems like a solid swap. The Leafs lose their right-shot D and pick one in return, however, this isn’t the case. Firstly, Toronto will likely have to add in a sweetener, suspected to be Connor Brown or a draft pick by Bob Mckenzie. And secondly, Ceci may be asked to waive his arbitration rights to turn him into a UFA and clear his potential cap hit off the Leafs books.
This is a real inside hockey trade and we have the damn salary cap to thank for that. Ideally, in my eyes, Ceci would just sign a deal with Toronto at a less-than-Zaitsev cap hit, locking up a starting position on the right side of the D-core. This seems unlikely, however, as he is made $4.3m last season with the Sens.
Original speculation about Ceci waiving his arb rights has seemed to cool off. Darren Dreger is now reporting that the Leafs could see Ceci sign for $5m and could extend him further in January if he impresses Babcock, Dubas and the rest of the team with his first half pay. If we want to draw some conclusions from this, it seems like Brown will be gone in this deal, and Nazem Kadri might be off, too.
Martin Marincin… really?
I really thought we were done with this guy after his contract expired at the end of last season. I don’t trust him, he plays the left side, he isn’t better than half of the Marlies defensemen, and I’d rather get burned on giving a new player a chance or signing a player to a PTO than taking the unenigmatic bird in the hand that Marincin is.
That being said, Babcock seems to like him and with Ron Hainsey garnering a ton of interest, maybe this is Dubas’ appeasement to his head coach who is losing all of his favorite players.
I will say this, Marincin had a solid World Hockey Championships this summer with Slovakia. The Leafs are also pigeon-holed into putting stock into this tournament with Nylander excelling at it, so that is a positive. Regardless. Marincin is a cheap option at $700k and the Leafs know all of his limitations as a player. He’ll likely be the seventh defenseman on this team and won’t likely be touched should he get sent to the Marlies.
Overall, I don’t know what to think. Marincin resigning is disappointing but possibly just cover for what will be a green and young defensive core. Ceci in return for Zaitsev is extremely high risk. The Leafs could have a solid, producing right-shot defenseman for years to come, they could get caught in cap hell, or they could flip him to another GM to try and sign. Either way, Monday will be fun.