Why Ryan Ellis Could Be The Best Defensive Acquisition of the 2021 Off-Season
It was obvious going into this off-season that a Top 2 defenseman and a partner for Ivan Provorov was the move the organization needed to make, and Chuck Fletcher went out and got just that in the 30 year old Ryan Ellis. Ellis spent the first ten years of his career with the Nashville Predators where he was apart of that highly respected defensive core that had many playoff runs in the late 2010s, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Seeing that Ryan Ellis is a top pair right-handed defenseman that is under contract until he’s 36 years old at $6.25M, it makes you begin to wonder off value alone if this is the best defensive acquisition of the off-season.
The Nashville Predators sent out Ryan Ellis in exchange for defenseman Phillippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick; then Patrick was promptly flipped to Vegas for Cody Glass, making this a three team trade.
When the deal was first announced I immediately thought it was a win for the Flyers and I feel that way even more now. Even though he had some rough patches I usually enjoyed watching Phillippe Myers, especially his skating ability that seemed almost effortless at times.
The simple fact of it was that Myers is an undrafted diamond in the rough whose asset value was completely house money. On the other hand there is Nolan Patrick who did not want to be with the organization any longer, was regarded as not coachable, and through unfortunate luck barely saw the ice due to injuries.
If you take these things into account you can see how this might just be a homerun for the Flyers. You give up an undrafted defenseman who could be good and a forward who doesn’t want to work for your organization anymore for a top pair veteran in Ryan Ellis who has averaged around 23 minutes time-on-ice over the last 5 seasons.
Ever since Matt Niskanen retired there has been a huge void in leadership and stability and this most clearly evident through Ivan Provorov’s game. The 2019-2020 campaign was the best Ivan Provorov I’ve ever seen, confident on both ends plus taking a step up in his powerplay role and executing it well. Provorov might’ve had the nastiest goal of his career in that game against Montreal and he carried his regular season momentum into the playoffs where he was truly a weapon.
I am of firm belief that one of the main catalysts in Ivan Provorov’s progression was the mentorship of Matt Niskanen; a true skilled veteran defenseman that provided stability throughout the entire locker room. Niskanen’s ability to remain calm during breakouts and keep the transitions smooth were really missing from this team last season.
In his press conference, Derick Brassard made mention that when the Islanders took on the Flyers in the 2020 Playoffs with Niskanen suspended to start the series, he felt a difference and a weakness in the team. When I hear comments like this it makes last years horrid result even less surprising, but Brassard also mentioned the addition of Ryan Ellis and the other defensemen as a way of Chuck infusing stability back into the Flyers.
Much like Niskanen, Ellis has been an alternate captain and a calming presence who Fletcher referred to as one of the best defensive passers in the NHL. Appearing in 74 Stanley Cup Playoff games and a Cup Final, Ellis has the mileage and resume to step into this top pair and be a pivotal leader from day one. The true beauty in this trade is that Ryan Ellis in under contract for 6 more years at $6.25M so him and Provorov can continue to build on this great value first pairing for years to come.
Comparing To The Others
When the off-season kicked off, the Flyers were rumored to Seth Jones quite heavily almost to the point where it felt inevitable but it fell through due to extension talks. Given that the Flyers weren’t linked to the other high profile defensive UFA Dougie Hamiliton, it casted this dark cloud over the fanbase that started to wonder if we would even acquire that top pairing talent we needed. When you look at the Ellis trade in hindsight and compare it to what other high profile defensive acquisitions costed, a case can be made that this is the best valued “bang for your buck” deal on the market.
Who in the NHL will have the biggest impact on his new team?— TLY (@TheLibertyYell) September 5, 2021
We’ll start — Not just because he’s a Flyer, but the Ryan Ellis move is by far our favorite move of the entire off-season for any team. He is going to be huge for Philadelphia#Flyers
Seth Jones (UFA, Age 26): 8 year/$9.5M contract with a modified no trade clause. (CHI)
Dougie Hamiliton (UFA, Age 28): 7 year/$9M contract with a full no move clause. (NJD)
Oliver-Ekman Larsson (Trade, Age 30): 6 year/$7.2M cap hit with a no move clause, acquired with Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, 2021 first and and seventh round pick, and a 2022 second. Arizona also sent Conor Garland. (VAN)
Simply put the price for defense was sky high this off-season, especially within the unrestricted free agency market. Obviously Ryan Ellis is going to have a better value contract than someone signing a deal this season but when you take into account that the Flyers really didn’t lose too much, it looks amazing on the surface to me. Vancouver got Ekman-Larsson with salary retained and Conor Garland but had to give multiple assets including draft picks, which the Flyers were able to avoid.
With preseason action getting underway in 20 days, I can’t wait to see what elements Ellis and the other additions bring to the team this season. Enough of the dumpster fire COVID shortened seasons we’ve been getting, it’s time for a real season.
Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated