Ryan Ellis was already being coveted as a potential July 2019 unrestricted free agent -- as the kind of defenseman a team could build a blue line around. Which is why Nashville Predators general manager David Poile didn't allow him to get within sniffing distance of the open market, signing the 27-year-old defenseman to an eight-year, $50 million contract extension that kicks in for the 2019-20 season.
The final year of Ellis's contract in 2018-19 carries a $2.5 million hit. His $6.25 million cap hit is the 21st highest in the NHL among defenseman for the 2019-20 season. P.K. Subban of the Predators is second on that list at $9 million against the cap.
"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 a statement. "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."
Ellis had 32 points in 44 games last season, having been out of the lineup until Jan. 2 after offseason knee surgery. From that point until the end of the season, he was 11th among defensemen in scoring. His 23 assists and plus-26 were both career highs. He was fourth among Predators defensemen in average ice time with 23:21 per game. He was mostly paired with defenseman Roman Josi last season.
Originally drafted by the Predators in the first round (11th overall) of the 2009 NHL draft, Ellis has 173 points in 396 NHL games since 2011.
Nashville has its entire defense corps signed through 2020, with some shrewd cap management: Josi makes $4 million against the cap through 2020 and Mattias Ekholm makes $3.75 million through 2022, when both he and Subban are eligible for unrestricted free agency.
In signing Ellis, Poile continues to solidify his team's foundation in the long term. For example, he has 11 players under contract for the 2020-21 season: His top two centers in Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris; his leading scorers in Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson; and three of this four top defensemen in Subban, Ekholm and now Ellis.