The bad news just keeps coming for Ryan Ellis. He missed nine games with a lower-body injury before returning over the weekend in a losing effort against the Dallas Stars. After the game he was put back on the injured list and is considered week-to-week with potential surgery in his future.
When the Flyers acquired Ellis over the summer, it seemed odd the Predators would have traded one of their top defenseman for essentially nothing in Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers. They flipped Patrick to Vegas for prospect Cody Glass and Phil Myers has served as the Predators seventh defenseman. So why would they make a deal that seemed so one-sided and cheap?
Well maybe this was a smart long-term play by the Predators. With Ellis, who will turn 31 in early January, having five more seasons on his contract at a $6.25 million cap hit, dealing him while he’s still at the peak of his career and enticing to other teams so they can wash their hands clean of any potential issues down the line if or when they get stuck eating his cap hot while he’s on the shelf. It doesn’t really explain the low return, especially considering what other defenseman got on the trade market, but it does explain why he was available in the first place.
The injury history with Ryan Ellis isn’t exactly a secret. He has missed time in 10 of his 11 NHL seasons, with his only full 82-game campaign coming in 2018-19. He missed 21 games in 2020, 20 games in 2019-20, and 38 games in 2017-18.
So what do the Flyers do from here? Well, in the short term Nick Seeler returns to the big club and Justin Braun continues to line up next to Ivan Provorov. Braun has been a more than suitable replacement for Ellis, but the third pair of Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler has been getting worse by the game.
Nick Seeler, while he has been fine in his role given the circumstances, just isn’t a long-term NHL option. The Flyers do have Cam York and Egor Zamula waiting in the wings, but there are issues there as well. First and foremost, both players are lefties, while Ellis played on the right side. There are ways around that, like moving Yandle to the right so the youngsters can play their natural side, but slotting either one of them in on the third pair with Yandle, who is having a rough stretch of hockey in his own right, doesn’t seem ideal. They could bump York or Zamula into the the second line role with Braun and go- Provorov-Ristolainen York/Zamula-Braun and Sanheim-Yandle, but a third pair of Sanheim and Yandle doesn’t seem ideal either.
If Ellis does indeed go for surgery or Seeler gets worse during his absence, they may have no choice but to recall York and deal with the wacky lineups in favor of trying to salvage the season.
Chuck Fletcher may have no choice but to acquire another depth defenseman who serves the number seven role better than Seeler. Who knows who he’d target, but someone with plenty of experience on a cheap deal who can hold down the fort when called upon but is comfortable sitting in the press box if need be. Depth veteran defenseman are a dime a dozen on the market, but the Flyers may need to strike sooner rather than later instead of waiting for the trade deadline to roll around in March.
All in all, it’s fair to be frustrated with Ellis, but no one can say they are surprised. It was the risk they took acquiring him over someone like Dougie Hamilton or Seth Jones, the contract is cheaper, but you’re taking on the potential injury bug that comes with him. At this point, Ellis needs to be healthy for a late-season push and hopefully the playoffs, so missing time in November and December isn’t the end of the world, but it does leave the Flyers scrambling for answers in the meantime.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: tsn.ca