Earlier in the week, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher seemed to make it clear that making moves was a matter of when, not if, for the Orange and Black. He cautioned, however, that much would come prior to next week’s Expansion Draft involving the NHL’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken.
On Saturday at 3 p.m., rosters would be frozen ahead of expansion, and that sent teams into action to make some last-minute deals. The Flyers were right at the forefront, making the key offseason acquisition to acquire a top defenseman.
The Flyers completed a trade with the Nashville Predators, adding defenseman Ryan Ellis in exchange or defenseman Phil Myers and forward Nolan Patrick. Patrick was sent to the Vegas Golden Knights in a separate deal involving the Predators and New York Rangers.
Ellis, 30, has six years remaining on his contract with a $6.25 million cap hit. This certainly gives the Flyers a long-term answer to their issues on the blue line from a season ago. In addition, no salary was retained on Myers’ contract, which holds a $2.55 million cap hit. Patrick was a restricted free agent.
"We like him a lot as a player. We like the cap hit, we think it's a fair number, and we also like the fact that he's already signed," Fletcher said. "He's not a player that we traded for and now have to turn around and find a way to sign a contract in the next year or so. He brings some cost certainty, we can plug that number in over the next few years, and I think it's a fair cap number for the quality of hockey player we've acquired."
What really drew the Flyers to Ellis was the long-term security at the position with what could be a very manageable cap hit in the future. Unlike names like Seth Jones, who was rumored to be on the Flyers radar but not willing to commit beyond the upcoming season, or Dougie Hamilton, who was going to demand a big raise in free agency, the Flyers get a lot of clarity about their cap situation.
Ellis played in 35 games last season, scoring five goals and 13 assists for 18 points. Ellis has battled injuries in his career, including a shoulder injury last season, but he has long been on the Flyers radar. He’s got a lot of the qualities the team was looking for, notably in his leadership skills and his ability to play in all situations.
"Ryan is an excellent all-around defenseman," Fletcher said. "In our opinion, he's one of the best passers in the game on the blue line. He's great in transition. He can play the power play, he's got a heavy shot and he's a very good penalty killer. He's been part of the leadership group in Nashville for a while. He's a competitive team-oriented type of player. For us, we think he's a really well-rounded hockey player, a quality person, and somebody that we feel fortunate that we were able to add to our group today."
As for Myers and Patrick, Fletcher said the team wasn’t necessarily looking to move either player, but made a hockey trade to address a position of need. Both Myers and Patrick had to deal with adversity over the years.
"We moved two good young players today. That was the price of doing business to acquire a quality two-way defenseman that we feel we really needed to take a step forward as an organization," Fletcher said. "Ryan checks a lot of boxes for this organization and we paid a price to get him."
Myers, 24, was expected to take on a more significant role and make a great jump in his performance last season. He only played in 44 games last season, scoring one goal and adding 10 assists for 11 points.
Patrick, 22, was highly profiled as the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, but struggled in his first years in the league. He was unable to play due to migraine syndrome in his third season in the league, then returned this past season to play in 52 games with four goals and five assists for nine points.
Fletcher also certainly implied that the team is not done yet with their offseason. No moves can be made with the exception of working a deal with Seattle prior to Thursday at 1 p.m., but the Flyers did retain their first-round pick at 13th overall and Fletcher said it is still on the table.
"Clearly the 13th pick is a great commodity. We're open to moving it in the right scenario and yet, we'd also be excited to take the player that falls to us there," Fletcher said.
"We're certainly going to continue to look at every avenue to get better. We weren't good enough last year. Ryan Ellis is an upgrade, he's a step in the right direction. We're not going to get complacent. We'll do what we can to upgrade in the areas we can."
So it appears this is only the beginning for the Flyers. They now can add Ellis to their plans and focus on addressing other areas, such as back-up goaltender, potentially more reinforcements on the blue line and potentially adding more to the forward group. The team also has to re-sign defenseman Travis Sanheim and goalie Carter Hart as restricted free agents as well.
For now, things take a brief pause as the hockey world shifts focus to the Expansion Draft and the Seattle Kraken. But one thing is certain when it comes to the Orange and Black, their offseason of action is just getting started.