Senators stick close to home for top pick

PITTSBURGH — Three times before he used his first-round pick on Friday, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray called several other National Hockey League teams in an effort to move up.
There was a certain player Murray wanted, but he thought some other team would grab him first, so he got on the phone and tried to make a deal, as he successfully did four years ago before selecting Erik Karlsson.
This time no other team would budge, though, so all Murray could do was wait.
“I honestly never thought he would be available at 15,” Murray said.
Fortunately, on a night when the NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings were turned inside-out, the player Murray wanted was, surprisingly, available when the Senators’ pick finally came around.
So, in the end, Murray got his guy: Ottawa 67’s defenceman Cody Ceci of Orléans.
Ceci was ranked sixth in the final Central Scouting rankings and it was expected that he’d go in the top 10 of the first round.
No one was happier than Ceci and the large contingent of family and friends who made the trip here, most notably mother Karen, father Parri, brother Cole and sister Chelsea.
“At first I wasn’t too nervous, but, when it got around to where I was ranked, I got a little nervous every time a team passed me,” Ceci said.
“But a lot of the other guys out there were feeling the same thing. It was a nerve-wracking day, but, in the end, it all worked out and I’m very happy.”
Another local player had the opposite experience of Ceci.
Peterborough Petes defenceman Slater Koekkoek, from Mountain, south of Ottawa, was ranked 23rd in the final Central Scouting rankings, but was selected 10th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 6-2, 203-pound Ceci said he’d like to think he can make the Senators roster next season, and director of player personnel Pierre Dorion agreed that Ceci was not far from making it to the NHL.
Either way he’ll be spending a lot of time at Scotiabank Place next season, with the 67s playing all their home games there because of renovations at the Civic Centre.
That might prompt Ceci to fight a place to live in Kanata to avoid regular drives from Orléans to Kanata.
“I know my mom likes to have me a home, but I might just have to find a place in Kanata to avoid those drives,” he said.
Murray said Ceci would get every chance to make the team out of training camp.
“I think there’s room for anybody who can play the game at a high level,” he said.
“And, like every other young person, they come in, they get a chance, and they determine whether they make it or not by their play.
“If he’s good enough in training camp and going forward, then obviously we’ll give him that look. It’s hard for a defenceman, we know that, but, yeah, I think there’s room.
“We’ve got lots of room, we just need good players to fill the room.”
Murray said Ceci’s offensive abilities were particularly desirable with the way hockey was played today.
“I think today’s game almost demands that you have three or four guys on the back end that can contribute offensively, and help to get the puck going,” he said.
Dorion said Ceci obviously had to grow as a player, but he was not far away.
“I think he’s pretty close to playing in the NHL,” he said.
“I think he has got to work on a few things. He has got to work on his play away from the puck. But his play with the puck is definitely of NHL calibre. I think he’s strong enough to play in the NHL.
“I think he skates well enough to play in the NHL. I think it’s just an adjustment to the pace.
“But, if all goes well, if he has a good summer, I think he has a chance to play within the next two years.”
Earlier in the day, Murray said he was still in talks with the Columbus Blue Jackets about acquiring star winger Rick Nash.
Nothing happened Friday but it could happen later.
“My job is to investigate each and every opportunity to get better,” Murray said.
“I’ve certainly talked to different teams about certain players, telling them basically what we’re prepared or able to do, and seeing if that’s what they think is enough, or not. We’ll just wait as we go forward to see what kind of response, if any, we get.”
One question he had was whether the Senators even wanted to go forward on Nash since the price would be heavy.
A number of Senators names have been bandied about in various combinations in trade rumours, including Robin Lehner, Ben Bishop, Mika Zibanejad, and Nick Foligno. Draft picks weren’t part of the talks.
Murray said the acquisition of a player like Nash wouldn’t change the plan he had put in place to rebuild the team, but the team would get better faster with a player like Nash.
“Again, the hope is to be good next year,” Murray said.
“We can all say five years down the road we’re going to be good, but I’d like to be as good as we can be in the very near future.
“It doesn’t change the process, but it hurries it up if we get an impact player.”
The San Jose Sharks appear to be the Senators’ major competitor for Nash. They’ve reportedly offered Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Jason Demers, and a first-round choice.
Nash would come with a big price tag. Under contract through 2017-18, he carries a cap hit of $7.8 million, which would make him the highest-paid player on the Senators.
Centre Jason Spezza, under contract through 2014-15, carries a cap hit of $7 million.

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