Like a few teams around the NHL, the Nashville Predators are having a hard time getting one of their promising restricted free agents under contract. Defenseman Ryan Ellis is still in need of a new deal after finishing out the last year of his entry-level contract last season. According to Preds GM David Poile, an agreement on a new contract is not close.
Poile spoke with Predators blog Section303.com to provide an update on the status of the negotiations:
“We're having on-going discussions,” he said. “We're a ways apart. Obviously, if we weren't we would have a deal done.”
“We're really excited about his future, how he played the last half of the season and the possibilities of his type of game under Coach [Peter] Laviolette,” Poile said. “It's just the type of negotiation where we just haven't gotten together. But there's quite a few younger players that are still unsigned on a lot of clubs right now.”
Poile also said the club would like to have a new contract done by the start of training camp.
Ellis was the 11th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He torched the junior ranks as a gifted offensive-minded defenseman with the Windsor Spitfires, but has taken a bit more time to find his way in the NHL.
He put up 27 points in 80 games while logging an average of 16:04 per game, essentially third-pairing minutes, last season. Ellis did see substantial power play time and that's likely where he'll be often again for the Predators.
Additionally, his last two months with the club were much better than the rest of his 2013-14 campaign. As the season progressed, Ellis saw his minutes rise and so did his production.
With new head coach Peter Laviolette bringing a more offense-friendly approach to Nashville next year, there's a good chance that Ellis will be able to play an even more prominent role next season and help bolster the team's scoring even further.
The former OHL MVP is part of a deep defensive group for the Predators and he's a contributor to making the blue line a real strength of the team thanks to his offensive tools.
In this situation, Ellis doesn't have a heck of a lot of leverage as a restricted free agent. He has really only one strong year to point to in order to earn a raise. It seems like a shorter-term, cheap deal is in order here.
But the last two months of the 2013-14 season did show flashes of what Ellis could potentially grow into. After all, he's just 23 years old, with only one full NHL season under his belt. There's really no telling at this point just how far he can take his potential.
It would figure that Ellis is due a raise, but there's still a lot for him to prove at the NHL level. Either way, after all the work Nashville did to piece together a better roster than the one it had last year, locking down Ellis is the last hurdle to manage.
As Poile notes, there are plenty of teams in a similar situation, so there doesn't appear to be any urgency, but this is one thing the Predators GM would likely prefer to wrap up sooner than later.
In 144 career games with the Preds, Ellis has posted 44 points.