Talk about going out with a bang. Just before the NHL entered a transaction freeze that lasts through Wednesday’s Expansion Draft, the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, and Vegas Golden Knights completed a trade with a slew of big names. Nashville sent career Predator Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia in exchange for fellow defenseman Philippe Myers and center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. The Predators then flipped Patrick to Vegas for another young center, Cody Glass, the No. 6 overall pick in 2017. Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, this is a purely player-for-player trade with no picks or prospects changing hands.
At first glance, the biggest winner in this trade has to be the Flyers. While Nashville was exploring trading one of five defensemen that they would have liked to protect from expansion, Ellis was not considered to be a likely trade candidate. The 30-year-old right-hander has been an elite defenseman for the better part of the last decade with the Predators, playing big minutes and producing impressive point totals all while playing a sound defensive game. Admittedly, Ellis does carry some concerns, including an offensive drop-off this season, an injury history, and a contract with six years and $37.5MM remaining. However, at least in the short-term, he is an outstanding addition to the Flyers’ defense corps. Their core objective this off-season was to find a mate for Ivan Provorov on the top pair and that is now complete.
It is hard to take issue with the cost paid by the Flyers as well. Ellis, though much older and a very different style of player, is a tremendous upgrade to Myers on the Philly blue line. As a one-for-one swap, there is no question that Ellis is the better player right now and Myers will likely never reach that caliber of play either. As for Patrick, the young forward needed a change of scenery after his first few years as a pro player have been marked by injury and inconsistency. There was some discussion that Philadelphia could even leave Patrick exposed, given their vast number of valuable, expansion eligible forwards. By moving Patrick in this deal, the Flyers give up the upside of the former top pick, but gain protection flexibility in exchange. Leading scorer James van Riemsdyk or long-time standout Jakub Voracek, both previously expected to be exposed to the Seattle Kraken, could now step into Patrick’s vacancy.
As for Nashville, the deal solves some problems but all of them. The Predators have been looking to clear salary cap space this summer to improve their roster and do just that by getting out from under Ellis’ expensive long-term contract. However, by bringing in Myers they are still left with five defensemen that they would like to protect – Myers, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, and Alexandre Carrier – but only eight total skaters they can protect. Fortunately, the forward portion of their protection scheme is made easier by flipping Patrick for Glass, who is exempt from the Expansion Draft. Glass was never given consistent opportunity in Vegas possesses ample ability and could find success for Nashville right away.
Vegas was clearly unhappy with Glass’ development, leading to his benching in the postseason and trade rumors early this off-season. However, the team has been too quick to trade away prospects and picks in their early seasons of existence and losing Glass would have hurt their pipeline if he had been dealt in a deal for yet another veteran. Instead, they replace him with Patrick, who is still just 22 and has three seasons of NHL experience under his belt. Perhaps most importantly, Patrick has experience with Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon, the former GM of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings when Patrick was a superstar for the team. If anyone can help Patrick get back on track and reach his potential, it could be McCrimmon. In regards to the Expansion Draft, Vegas is exempt and taking advantage of that special privilege with what could turn out to be a major move down the road.
This is a landscape-shifting move for the Seattle Kraken, who now could see players for both Philadelphia and Nashville that they expected to be exposed now protected. It is believed that the Predators were seeking a side deal with Seattle and there is no word as to whether one has been completed or not, though Nashville appears to have some sort of trick up their sleeve. As for Philly, the Kraken probably believed that they could see at least two of Patrick, van Riemsdyk, and Voracek exposed, but now will not. GM Ron Francis and company have their work cut out for them in reacting to a wild pre-roster freeze flurry.