Preds' Ryan Ellis heads to Philly as teams get in last moves before NHL expansion draft

Top-pair defenseman brings whale of a slapshot with him to Flyers, who needed exactly that kind of player

Ellis could be best righty Flyers defenseman since Eric Desjardins.
Ellis could be best righty Flyers defenseman since Eric Desjardins.
Image: Getty Images

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher got his man. The mild-mannered exec, rarely known for making big splashy moves, acquired Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators for former No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick and young defenseman Philippe Myers.

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It was the biggest move in a flurry of trades before Saturday’s expansion draft protection deadline.

Top pair, right-handed shooting defensemen are a rarity in the NHL, and the Flyers’ failure to fill the gap left by the retirement of Matt Niskanen after 2019-20 was a major factor in the franchise’s season from hell in 2020-21. Ellis, 30, known for his huge slapshot, is an elite two-way player who will be the Flyers’ best right-handed defenseman since Eric Desjardins’ prime two decades ago.

In addition, Fletcher managed to clean up two disappointments of the Ron Hextall era. Nolan Patrick was hyped as the top prospect in the 2017 draft, was seen as a franchise-altering player as the Flyers, by virtue of Ping Pong balls, moved into the No. 2 spot and division rivals New Jersey took Nico Hischier No. 1. Patrick, hobbled by health concerns and migraine issues, has been a disappointment, with just 70 points in three seasons. Meanwhile, the three players taken after him — Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson — have all become stars.

Nashville flipped Patrick to the Las Vegas Golden Knights for the guy who went sixth in that draft, Cody Glass, Vegas’ first ever draft pick.

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Myers, 24, the other part of the trade, is a freakishly athletic 6-foot-5 righty defenseman who had Flyers fans salivating after he was signed as an undrafted free agent, but his erratic play this past season made him expendable. If Myers can build on his talent he could give the Predators a nice piece, but it’s unlikely his upside could approach that of Ellis.