By Jim Diamond
Thursday marked the start of training camp for the 2014-15 version of the Nashville Predators. The players went through their medical exams and a series of meetings before adjourning for the afternoon. One player who was noticeably absent from today’s proceedings was defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Ellis, a restricted free agent, has not yet come to terms on a new contract with the team. It is important to note that since he is not under contract, he is not deemed a holdout.
Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Ellis’ agent Paul Krepelka said via email, “Nothing to report regarding any progress made toward a deal.”
Ellis is coming off of his three-year, entry-level deal that, per Cap Geek, paid him an average annual value of just over $1.4 million. In 80 games played last season, Ellis scored six goals and added 21 assists while averaging 16:04 of ice time per game. Two of Ellis’ goals were game-winners.
“We are in a contract negotiation with Ryan, and our goal remains to sign Ryan. The sooner we can do so, the better for both the team and for Ryan,” said Predators general manager David Poile, via email, late Thursday afternoon.
Friday is the start of on-ice practice sessions for the Predators. Under the guidance of new head coach Peter Laviolette, the players will take to the ice at Centennial Sportsplex. A new coach means new systems, so a player not in attendance runs the risk of falling behind on the learning curve. One thing working in Ellis’ favor in that respect is the fact that Phil Housley remained on the coaching staff following Barry Trotz’s departure. Housley ran the defense and power play units last season.
“My job is to make sure that this team is ready to go and the players in camp here are ready to play,” Laviolette said Thursday afternoon when asked specifically about Ellis. “When it comes to contracts, that goes upstairs, and you’d probably be best to talk to David about all that. Right now, we are focused on these guys and tomorrow should be fun.”
In another possible wrinkle to the situation, the Predators announced Thursday that they have added defenseman Brian Lee to the training camp roster on a tryout agreement. Lee has more than 200 games of NHL experience split between the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He did not play at all last season due to a knee injury. The first round (9th overall) pick of the Senators in 2005 will look to challenge for a spot on the Nashville roster.
The Predators play their first of six preseason games Tuesday in Tampa against the Lightning.