Ryan Ellis

Ellis sees limited ice time in return to lineup

By Jim Diamond

After missing 21 games with a lower-body injury, Ryan Ellis returned to the lineup for the Nashville Predators Thursday night in their home game against the Minnesota Wild. Ellis sustained his injury Jan. 8 against Dallas, and his rehab has been a long, slow process.

He has been skating with the team recently and at Thursday’s morning skate proclaimed that he was ready to see game action. In the 4-2 loss to the Wild, Ellis saw just 11:29 of ice time, his lowest total of the season save for the game in which he was injured.

“It was a rough game,” Ellis said. “It was fast-paced. Not playing for seven weeks, obviously it is tough to get back into it, but it’s kind of to be expected.”

With the team’s game-heavy schedule in the month of February, the Predators have not had a lot of practice time where Ellis could get closer to replicating game speed, so it will have to come through game action.

“There’s nothing like a game to prepare yourself,” Ellis said. “You can skate. You can ride the bike as much as you want, but you kind of have to play games to get in that mode.”

Neither Ellis nor Cody Franson saw the ice after the 11:06 mark of the third period. Asked about the pair spending the last half of the third on the bench, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette did not shine a whole lot of light on the situation.

“We were just moving the other four a little bit,” Laviolette said. “We were in a position where we were trying to push. It was just the way the bench rolled I think at the end.”

Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and Mattias Ekholm all played north of 20 minutes in the game, led by Josi’s 27:36.

Homeboys on the Blue Line

Long known for their prowess for drafting and developing defenseman, Ellis’ re-insertion into the lineup meant that all six Nashville blueliners in Thursday’s game were Predator draftees.

Add in the fact that Ryan Suter, the guy who the Bridgestone faithful booed each time he touched the puck per usual, was also a Predators draftee, and seven of the 12 defensemen in the game fit that definition.

As unusual as it is for a team to have all six of its defensemen homegrown, this was not the first time the Predators dressed a defense corps comprised entirely of players who had their name called by David Poile or a member of his front office when they were drafted. On January 9, 2010, Weber and Franson were joined by Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, and Alex Sulzer. In Sunday’s game in Buffalo, Weber, Josi, Jones, Ekholm, Franson, and Anthony Bitetto made up the D corps. 

Ryan Ellis sees first preseason game action in Predators loss

By Jim Diamond

After missing the start of training camp while waiting for his contract situation to settle, Predators defenseman Ryan saw his first game action Monday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visited Nashville.

Ellis inked a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the Predators late Thursday and arrived in Nashville early Friday after a long drive south from Windsor, Ontario.

The Predators came out on the losing end of a 3-0 decision Monday night, but Ellis was encouraged by how he felt physically.

“I was actually really surprised,” Ellis said. “I didn’t know what to expect. The first shift we got extended a bit and I was kind of winded there, but after that I felt really good.”

Ellis posted four shots on goal along with two attempts blocked and one missed shot in 19:51 of ice time in the game. He played 4:12 on the power play.

Nashville came up empty in six opportunities with the man advantage, even surrendering a shorthanded goal against early in the second period.

Ellis played with Mattias Ekholm Monday. The team’s top defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi appears set, but who will play in the other two pairings is still a work in progress. Along with Ellis and Ekholm, Seth Jones, Anton Volchenkov, and Victor Bartley appear to be in the mix for defensemen positions four through seven, but Joe Piskula and Johan Alm are still in camp looking to make the roster.

Peter Laviolette seemed encouraged by Ellis’ performance in his first preseason game.

“He was noticeable for me offensively,” Laviolette said. “I thought for jumping in, really just arriving a couple of days ago, I thought he did a nice job. He had a couple of looks where he could have scored a goal. He made some nice plays. He was active on the back end. I thought his game was okay.”

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With just a couple of practices and Monday’s game under his belt, Ellis thinks the new system put in place for this season suits his playing style well.

“The system has changed and it is a little more high-risk, which I like, and going forward hopefully it can be successful for our team,” Ellis said.

After playing four games in the span of five days, the Predators do not have any more games until the team plays their preseason finale Saturday in Columbus. While more of the expected opening night roster played Monday than in previous games, it is likely that Saturday’s game will feature more of the regulars in the last preseason tune-up.

Quick analysis: Ellis re-signing continues trend of locking up defensemen

By Jim Diamond

After missing the first few days of this season’s training camp as a restricted free agent, Ryan Ellis agreed to terms on a new deal with the Nashville Predators Thursday. According to Ellis’ agent Paul Krepelka, the deal will keep Ellis in Predators gold for five seasons and pay the blueliner a total of $12.5 million.

In a release, the team said that Ellis would be in Nashville Friday.

In locking up Ellis for five years, the Predators continued their recent trend of locking up their young group of defensemen. Long known for their prowess of drafting and developing young blueliners, Ellis’ contract signifies the organization’s belief that the 23-year-old will be a mainstay with the team for many years.

Last season, his first as a regular in the Nashville lineup, Ellis scored six goals and added 21 assists in 80 games played. He averaged 16:04 of ice time per game, with 1:45 of that on the power play. Ellis’ 123 shots on goal were good for seventh-best on the team.

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Ellis joins team captain Shea Weber and Roman Josi as members of Nashville’s blue line who are signed to long-term deals.

As a result of the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet that he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers and later matched by the Predators in the summer of 2012, Weber looks to be a Predator for the remainder of his career.

Last summer, the Swiss-born Josi inked his name on a seven-year, $28 million contract that will keep the Bern native in Nashville through the 2019-2020 season. The emerging star plays on Weber’s left side. The Predators took a slight gamble inking a young defenseman to a deal of that length, but right now, it looks like a steal.

In investing five more years into Ellis, Nashville hopes to capture the same kind of contract magic with the young Canadian.

Mattias Ekholm and Seth Jones, two of Nashville’s other young defensemen, are signed for this season plus one more before they become restricted free agents as well.

No contract means no Ryan Ellis in training camp

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.

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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.