Philadelphia Flyers: Ryan Ellis trade halts any rebuild talks

(Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The 2021 season was a weird one for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Fresh off the heels of a fantastic run in the NHL Bubble, the Flyers returned largely the same collection of players for the 2021 season, and thus, fans in the 215 were expecting their hometown club to at least match their 2020 form, if not outright breeze past it to heights not seen around these parts since 2008-12.

*spoiler alert* that didn’t happen.

Despite some glimpses of hope whenever things got particularly dire, the Orange and Black turned in one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, both based on expectations and their overall talent level.

After being sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in years, many wondered if the current corps of Claude Giroux and company had reached their logical end and if Chuck Fletcher would soon deliver onto the City of Brotherly Love the first true Flyers rebuild in years.

Well, if the team’s recent trade for top-pair right-handed defenseman Ryan Ellis is of any indication, I think it’s safe to say any talks of a rebuild are better saved for another day, as you don’t trade for a player in Year 3 of an eight-year, $50 million contract to land higher draft picks.

Landing Ryan Ellis is a real two-hander for the Philadelphia Flyers.

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The Seattle Kraken have thoroughly shaken the NHL to its core, and they haven’t even played a game yet.

With an expansion draft right around the corner, NHL GMs the league over are evaluating their roster to find the seven/eight players they’d like to protect and attempting to move others who don’t quite fall into that category in order to get something in return for a player who could be sniped away for nothing.

The Colorado Avalanche pulled off such a move on Friday by shipping Ryan Graves, a top-tier young defenseman on a good contract, to the New Jersey Devils for Mikhail Maltsev and a 2021 second-round pick, and the Pittsburgh Penguins followed suit shortly thereafter with a trade of their own, shipping Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Filip Hållander and a 2021 seventh-round pick.

But none of those deals compare to what Chuck Fletcher was able to pull off with the Nashville Predators, as he procured one of the best defensemen on the league, Ryan Ellis, for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick, who was then rerouted to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass.

Measuring in at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Ellis is one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL. He’s an elite passer – as Fletcher mentioned in his press availability- a savvy special teamer who was a fixture of both Nashville’s powerplay and penalty kill units, and the sort of grizzled veteran who can bring serious experience to a group that desperately missed Matt Niskanen following his surprise retirement last offseason.

Remember how Niskanen’s absence was the running joke of the 2021 season? Ellis should serve as its punchline moving forward.

Now sure, did it cost a lot to acquire Ellis? Yes. While opinions vary pretty significantly on Patrick at this point in his career, his draft status and occasionally flashes of brilliance still affords the benefit of the doubt from a developmental standpoint. Factor in Myers, who has been one of the feel-good stories of the Flyers’ player developmental system, and the return has better be pretty good to garner such a package.

Fortunately, Ellis fits that bill and should ingratitude himself to Philly fans as soon as he takes the ice.

A member of the Predators’ leadership group since 2017, Ellis has appeared in 636 games during his 10-year tenure in Nashville – 562 in the regular season and 74 in the playoffs – and is one of the most popular players among his teammates. He’s recorded 20-plus assist seasons in six of his last eight campaigns, and at 30, still has plenty of quality hockey left on his skates. Now tasked with righting a defensive unit that fell on hard times in 2021, Ellis should serve as a perfect partner in crime for Ivan Provorov, the 24-year-old wunderkind who fully cemented himself as a legit top-liner in his fifth professional season.

And best of all? Ellis is a redhead and should look right at home standing beside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek – baring a selection by the Kraken and/or a trade – in Flyers’ publicity pictures.

See what I mean? It’s like that one scene from Step Brothers, only way more orange.

Next. Gritty is having a not bummer summer. dark

So, in a weird way, the 2021 Seattle Kraken expansion draft may have just defined the Philadelphia Flyers’ future and made the team considerably better in the process, as there was no way they’d have landed Ryan Ellis in a normal offseason where protecting players was a concern. While Ellis alone won’t suddenly transform the Flyers into NHL front runners, his addition should certainly shore up the team’s defensive rotation moving forward and give Ivan Provorov a long-term partner to grow beside moving forward. Not a bad return for a 2017 UDFA and a struggling former first-round pick desperately in need of a change of scenery.