Trading for Ryan Ellis kicked off a flurry of activity this offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the first of several moves to change the course of the team in more ways than one. After a very disappointing season, changes needed to be made –– and they were.
Chuck Fletcher got ahead of the draft and free-agency rush for the second time in three offseasons. Two years ago, Fletcher added Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, and Justin Braun before the third week of June. This offseason, he made the biggest splash over a week before free agency opened. Fletcher acquired Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick. Ryan Ellis fills what was the Flyers’ biggest need on the right side of the top pair, and the Flyers didn’t have to pay too much.
In terms of players, Myers has top-four defenseman potential but has yet to realize it. He could end up with a ceiling near where Ellis is at now. The Flyers couldn’t afford to wait and see, however. Fletcher flipped Myers and a former No. 2 overall pick for a sure-thing to help the defense right now.
That former No. 2 overall pick is Nolan Patrick, of course. Patrick had a bumpy ride in Philadelphia through injuries and the “bust” label. He has the tools to be a top-six center in the NHL but it wasn’t working out with the Flyers. Who knows, maybe he would’ve been a solid third-line center after a full offseason. Instead, Patrick gets a fresh start with the Vegas Golden Knights with less pressure on him.
It ended up being a pretty good situation for all parties. The Flyers got the top-pair defenseman they needed. The Predators got a right defenseman with top-four potential to develop as well as Cody Glass via the Golden Knights for Patrick. Glass is another high pick (No. 6 overall) that hasn’t panned out.
Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers came away from that trade in a pretty good position. The moves a week or so later weren’t given the same unanimous approval, especially the Rasmus Ristolainen trade, but the Ellis trade is still the team’s biggest (and best) acquisition.
It continues to look better and better, too.
One of the initially overlooked things about Ellis is his contract. Sure, the Flyers got a top-pair defenseman for Myers and Patrick, but that’s not all. Ellis, although he is 30 years old, is on a very reasonable deal.
Ellis is signed for the next six years (through the 2026-27 season) at a cap hit of $6.25 million. The Flyers didn’t have to go out into free agency and bid against teams. They didn’t have to overpay in free agency or via a sign-and-trade. Fletcher traded for a top-pair defenseman with term at a great price.
Acquiring a top-pair defenseman at a relatively low cap hit allowed the Flyers to go out and trade for another right defenseman. Fletcher wanted to shore up the right side of the defense and he did that with Ellis and Ristolainen.
Since trading for Ellis on July 17th, six other defensemen signed long-term contracts (including extensions) with a cap hit of $5 million or higher. They’re all high-quality defensemen, but some of them received questionable salaries.
Seth Jones (CHI)
Eight years, $76 million ($9.5 AAV) extension
The first top-tier defenseman to bring pen to paper was Seth Jones. Jones was on the Flyers’ radar after it came out that he wanted out of Columbus. However, Jones didn’t want to commit to a long-term deal in Philadelphia and that may have saved the Flyers from themselves. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks traded for Caleb Jones from Edmonton and Seth Jones from Columbus.
Chicago gave up Adam Boqvist, the 12th overall pick, their 2022 first-round pick, and a second-round pick for Jones and the 32nd overall pick. That was quite the haul for Columbus.
The Blackhawks signed Jones to a max eight-year deal with a cap hit of $9.5 million per season. That was a lot to give up for Jones and the defenseman is now one of the highest-paid in the league.
Jones is three years younger than Ellis, but he’s not worth over $3 million more. Chuck Fletcher was smart to set his sights on Ellis and pull the trigger.
Cale Makar (COL)
Six years, $54 million ($9 AAV) extension
The 22-year-old Makar is one of the best young defensemen in the game and deserves to get paid. The Avalanche signed him to a six-year contract extension. It’s a nice chunk of change for Makar and it looks like a great deal for Colorado with some of the other contracts handed out.
In terms of Flyers defensemen, there’s really no comparison. This just further shows that top-tier defensemen are getting upwards of $8 and $9 million AAVs.
Dougie Hamilton (NJD)
Seven years, $63 million ($9 million AAV)
Dougie Hamilton was the belle of the free-agency ball this summer. It would’ve been nice to see the Flyers go after him and his contract is a fairly reasonable one. The Devils needed an upgrade on the blue line –– and everywhere, really –– and they got a good one in Hamilton.
Ryan Ellis at $6.25 million makes Hamilton signing in New Jersey a little easier to swallow, though.
Zach Werenski (CBJ)
Six years, $57.5 million ($9.5 million AAV) extension
After trading away Jones, the Blue Jackets locked up their other –– younger –– top defenseman in Zach Werenski. The left defenseman sees his salary almost double after a three-year, $15 million bridge deal.
Yet another defenseman with a cap hit over $9 million. You have to pay for quality defensemen in this league, but it might be getting out of hand. Nevertheless, the Flyers are happy to have Ellis at $6.25 million –– and Provorov (drafted one spot before Werenski in 2015) at $6.75 million.
Adam Pelech (NYI)
Eight years, $46 million ($5.75 million AAV) extension
This is one of the few defensemen contracts in which the team got a steal. Pelech is a great defenseman for the Islanders and our friends over at NYI Hockey Now say that his new deal is a “golden one for both sides.”
Pelech is the prototypical defensive defenseman and a great one at that. He’s only 26 years old and could still be getting better.
The Flyers never would’ve had a shot at Pelech, but it gives the Islanders more cap room to work with.
Darnell Nurse (EDM)
Eight years, $74 million ($9.25 million AAV) extension
Darnell Nurse is coming off a great season with the Oilers and cashed in big time on this contract. He scored a career-high 16 goals in 56 games on an inflated 10.4 shooting percentage. Being teammates with Connor McDavid certainly helps his numbers, but this contract is a headscratcher.
Nurse is still just 26 years old and is entering his prime, but it seems risky to hand out a $74 million contract to a guy like that.
This is the contract that really sent everything overboard. The Jones one was high but understandable given the circumstances. The Makar one makes sense. New Jersey paying Hamilton does, too. Werenski and Pelech split the difference.
And then there’s Nurse. Maybe he turns into a two-way top-pair defenseman. But this contract is a lot.
All I know is that this contract –– as well as others signed this summer –– makes the Ryan Ellis trade look even better.