The Philadelphia Flyers are in need of some help. A defenseman or two would fit the bill, and the Nashville Predators have a pair of blueliners to keep an eye on. Mattias Ekholm has been in the rumor mill for weeks now, but another Predators defenseman may enter the conversation: Ryan Ellis.
Both Ekholm and Ellis are high-quality defensemen. Any team would be lucky to have them, and the Predators have both. Unfortunately for Nashville, their window to contend has closed and they need to start looking toward the future. One team’s misfortune could be another team’s gain, and that other team could be the Flyers.
Elliotte Friedman had a few interesting things to say regarding the Predators defensemen in this week’s 31 Thoughts column. Friedman wrote about the decision Predators GM David Poile faces with trading one (or both) of the defensemen. Ellis was initially off-limits, Friedman writes, and his contract (six years remaining at $6.25 million AAV) would normally make him hard to move, but Friedman “could see [Ellis] being an exception.”
Ryan Ellis a fit for Flyers
That could be good news for teams around the league, and Friedman explicitly mentions the Flyers:
“This is purely my opinion, but Ellis screams Philadelphia. Predators head coach John Hynes revealed the blueliner recently had surgery, so he’s not solving anyone’s short-term problems. That fits for the Flyers, since he can still be an impactful player for years. The way they’ve played, they’re not moving major pieces to save the spring of 2021. But Ellis could replace a valuable loss — Matt Niskanen — for the long term.
An Ellis/Ivan Provorov partnership? Does anyone else think Philadelphia might leap at that?”
Yes, Elliotte, Philadelphia might certainly leap at that.
As mentioned, Ellis is under contract through the end of the 2026-27 season with a $6.25 million AAV. He’s already 30 years old, but that shouldn’t deter the Flyers from pursuing him.
Ellis is a right-handed shot that would fit perfectly with Ivan Provorov on the top pair for years to come. We saw how good Provorov was with Niskanen, and Ellis would even be a step up from that.
Ellis has averaged at least 23:21 per game over the past five seasons. This year, prior to his injury, he was playing 24:39 per game through 21 contests. That is a top-pairing defenseman.
While Ellis isn’t healthy now, he would help the Flyers for years to come. On March 2nd, he was given a four-to-six-week timeline to come back from his upper-body injury. That would mean a return somewhere in the middle of April.
The cost for Ellis would obviously be high given his contract and level of play, but it could be worth it for the Flyers. They lack a top-pair option with Provorov right now and don’t exactly have anyone in the pipeline to fill that role. There was hope that Philippe Myers could turn into that –– and he still might ––, but this season has been discouraging for Myers.
Fletcher and the Flyers have reportedly been talking with Poile and the Predators. If Mattias Ekholm isn’t in the cards, perhaps Ryan Ellis is.
Flyers’ potential depth addition
Friedman also mentioned another defenseman and the Flyers, but it would be a huge step down from Ellis.
“3. I could see Philadelphia considering someone like Marc Staal if not going the Ellis route.”
Staal brings some veteran experience, but he’s nothing more than a third-pair defenseman. At that point, the Flyers would be better just playing Robert Hagg –– possibly even Nate Prosser –– or someone from the Phantoms.
The NHL trade deadline is now less than three weeks away. Things are going to start to ramp up even more as we near the end of March.
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher will hold a typical mid-season press conference on Wednesday at 1 p.m. He may give some insight into his thought process at that time.