Cap Comparables: Predators’ Ellis inks team-friendly extension

Tim and Sid discuss the Nashville Predators extending defenceman Ryan Ellis and how their back end shapes up among the NHL's elite.

The Nashville Predators locked up another piece of their strong defensive core on Tuesday, signing Ryan Ellis to an eight-year extension worth an even $50 million.

The new deal, which kicks in at the start of 2019-20, carries a cap hit of $6.25 million through the 2026-27 campaign.

In addition to being part of the league’s most fearsome of blue-line foursomes alongside P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, Ellis has also been known for being one of the NHL’s biggest bargains. The five-year, $12.5-million contract he signed following his entry-level deal has seen him count for just $2.5 million against the cap, which is basically unheard of for a productive rearguard of Ellis’s calibre.

Ellis, 27, will be 36 when this new deal expires, which means it’s possible the beloved bearded rearguard could spend his entire career in Nashville. (On the other hand, it also leaves Poile with a little flexibility should things go south seeing as there isn’t a no-move clause attached to the pact.)

Ellis’s point production has steadily increased over his seven years in the NHL so far. Though injury forced him to miss the first half of the 2017-18 season, Ellis was a nearly unstoppable upon his return in January. All told, he registered nine goals and 32 points while tallying a career-high 23 assists in just half a season’s worth of games.

“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,” Poile said in Tuesday’s press release. “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.”

No longer one of the NHL’s biggest bargains, Ellis has finally caught up to his peers’ paygrade — but just barely. When you look at what the rest of the league is making, you’ll see why he could still be considered a steal for years to come.

Let’s compare: How does Ellis stack up to other defencemen on similar deals?

Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning
(Seven years, $47.25 million; $6.75-million cap hit)

Like Poile, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been known for his wizardry when it comes to signing his big stars — but McDonagh’s seven-year deal wasn’t exactly met with as much praise from Hockey Twitter when the club announced the deal on July 1. At 29, McDonagh is two years Ellis’s senior and his no-trade clause puts the defenceman in control of his destination late in his tenure which means his cap hit could look pretty heavy on Tampa Bay’s books by the time it’s through.

Stats-wise, Ellis has been the more productive of the two in the goals department, registering 55 markers through 396 regular-season contests compared to McDonagh’s 53 in 530.

Interestingly, the two rearguards posted matching stats in the 2017-18 playoffs (five assists) and both have put up dominant numbers in post-seasons past — Ellis had five goals and 13 points in Nashville’s 22-game Stanley Cup run in 2016-17, while McDonagh’s career-high came in the Rangers’ run in 2013-14 when he tallied four goals and 17 points through 25 games.

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks
(Eight years, $52 million; $6.5-million cap hit)

The Ducks were smart to lock up Fowler at their earliest opportunity, signing the rearguard to an eight-year extension on July 1, 2017. That new contract kicks in this season, making him the highest-paid defenceman on Anaheim’s deep, young blue line.

The two defencemen took similar paths to their respective paydays. Ellis, who was drafted 11th overall by the Predators in 2009, followed up his entry-level deal with a (very) cap-friendly five-year contract before heading to the bank on a deal that more accurately reflects his contributions to the team. Fowler, selected 10th overall by the Ducks a year later, also signed a reasonable five-year pact upon the expiration of his ELC — though at $4 million per year, it wasn’t quite the bargain that Ellis’s was — and also turned it into a bigger raise on an eight-year deal.

Fowler has suited up for more games than Ellis, who took a little more time to ease into the league, and has registered 53 goals and 196 assists for 249 points in 561 career regular-season games.

Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
(Seven years, $42 million; $6-million cap hit)

A 27-year-old Johnson signed this seven-year deal with the Avalanche back in September 2015 following a strong (though injury-shortened) season that saw him tally a career-high 12 goals. The Blues’ No. 1 overall pick in 2006 started his NHL career on plenty of promise but has struggled to find consistency thanks in large part to injuries — he has never been able to complete a fully-healthy 82-game campaign. Ellis has also dealt with his share of injuries, having been unable to play a full 82-game season yet in his career.

Johnson, now 30, has registered 70 goals and 192 assists for 262 career regular-season points in 637 games.

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