- After growing from homegrown prospect to NHL standout, Ryan Ellis committed to sticking with the Nashville Predators for the long-haul.
The NHL’s summer of contract extensions continues, with Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis signing an eight-year, $50 million deal that will kick in during the 2019-20 season and carry through 2026-27.
The blueliner has one year left on a five-year $12.5 million deal signed in 2014-15, and his new contract will bring with it a $6.5 million annual cap hit—as well as a $7 million bonus on July 1, 2019.
"I think one of the least favorite parts of sports for the athletes is going through contract negotiations," Ellis said Wednesday on Sportsnet 590. "It’s been a couple of months since we’ve been eligible to sign it and its nice to get it all done and I’m more than happy to be back in Nashville for the long haul."
In an injury-shortened 2017-18 season, the 27-year-old Elis racked up nine goals and 32 points in 44 games while recovering from a knee injury sustained during the Predators’ Stanley Cup Final run in 2017. He finished fourth among Nashville defenseman in TOI at 23:21, the 30th highest average among league defensemen. In 396 regular season games over seven NHL seasons, the former first-round pick—Nashville plucked him at No. 11 in 2009—has 55 goals and 173 points. He's been even better in the postseason, racking up five goals and 27 points in 58 career contests, averaging 23:24 in the playoffs.
Known for his booming slap shot from the point—he ranked fifth among NHL defenseman in shot quality, per The Point—as well as his red lumberjack-esque beard, the Predators see more on the way for Ellis as he enters his prime.
"Ryan is a huge part of our team on and off the ice and we are happy to have his leadership remain in our locker room for the foreseeable future," Nashville GM David Poile said. "We have talked about wanting to keep the core of our team together, and this is another opportunity to help us do so while continuing to compete for a Stanley Cup. Ryan is entering his prime and is one of the reasons why we feel this team has a chance to win every time we step on the ice."
In extending Ellis with a team-friendly deal, Poile has managed to keep his set of superstar defenseman in the fold for at least two more seasons, when captain Roman Josi will due for a sizable raise from his $4 million cap hit after 2019-20. Until then, Nashville’s top-four blueliners—Ellis, Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm—are under wraps for $19.25 million in 2018-19 and $23 million the following season. Similar to his teammates’ deals, Ellis’s does not carry any kind of no-movement or no-trade clause, which gives Poile plenty of flexibility, should he need it.
The Predators’ set of defenseman is easily one of the league’s best, with Subban, Josi and Ellis being among NHL Network’s top 20 players at the position, and all but Subban being a testament to the franchise’s development of blue line talent. That propensity for building from within also shows in net, where veteran Pekka Rinne is coming off of a Vezina Trophy-winning season, and being pushed for playing time by 2013 fourth-round pick Juuse Saros. Up front, Viktor Arvidsson, Kevin Fiala and Eeli Tolvanen represent up-and-coming offensive talents.
"We have a great team, some great defense," Ellis said. "All around, I like our team on paper. It’s up us to go out there and get the job done."
A Stanley Cup favorite a season ago, Nashville has the sixth-best odds at 12/1 heading into 2018-19.
“Our team has really taken some steps in the right direction,” Ellis said. “We went from zero banners in our arena a couple years ago to having a couple up there from the division and Presidents’ Trophy and then making the Stanley Cup Final. The organization itself is headed in a great direction and I wanted to be a part of that for a long time.”
Ellis's extension is the latest offseason transaction for Poile and the Preds, who brought back defenseman Dan Hamuis on a two-year deal, as well as extended Saros and re-signed forward Ryan Hartman.