Florida Panthers: Exploring the Possibility of a Ryan Ellis/Mattias Ekholm Trade (Featuring Predlines)

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15: Mattias Ekholm #14 celebrates his goal with P.K. Subban #76, Filip Forsberg #9 and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators against the Minnesota Wild during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on October 15, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15: Mattias Ekholm #14 celebrates his goal with P.K. Subban #76, Filip Forsberg #9 and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators against the Minnesota Wild during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on October 15, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

As the Florida Panthers explore options to improve their threat from the blue line, multiple rumors have labelled Nashville Predators defensemen Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm available for trade.

Last season, the Nashville Predators boasted one of the elite defensive cores in the NHL, with Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm playing alongside former Montreal Canadiens super star P.K. Subban and club captain Roman Josi.

The Predators are as close to a cup window as any team, with their defense averaged around 29 years of age, their forwards averaged around 27, and Pekka Rinne 35-years-old going into this season.

Despite that, the Predators never showed that same dominance that a majority of insiders expected them to.

The Predators wound up winning the Central Division in the last game of the season, beating out a Winnipeg Jets squad that lost 6 of their last 9 games and a St. Louis Blues team that were last in the NHL in January, by just 1 point.

In the playoffs, the Predators were held down by Dallas’ Ben Bishop as Nashville were stunned by the Dallas Stars in six games. This is a massive failure for this franchise, especially considering their biggest threats in Calgary lost round one as well.

Now, the Predators are in an odd spot. They’re tied into a lot of long-term contracts, including Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, and the before-mentioned Ellis and Subban. Johansen will be paid until he’s 32, Turris until he’s 34, Subban until he’s 33, and Ellis until he’s 35.

With just $7 million free in cap space, it’s very unlikely they will be able to bring back UFAs Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle, and may struggle to retain RFAs Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi – who was one of the Preds’ best forwards in that series.

Not to mention, Roman Josi, Mikael Granlund, and Craig Smith – three key players for the Predators – expire next season. Already locked into the Johansen, Turris, Ellis, and Subban contracts, it will be hard for them to bring those players back as well.

Meanwhile, Mattias Ekholm is locked into a $3.75 million per year contract until 2022, in which he will be paid until he is 32 years of age.

While the contract is more affordable than some of the other ones, Ekholm is closer to 30 than 25, and this could be the point where the Predators may want to cash in on him.

Instead of me analyzing possible trades for the two defensemen, I figured bringing in Site Expert of Predlines, FanSided’s devoted Nashville Predators site, Colby Guy, in for his take on a possible Predators-Panthers trade for Ellis or Ekholm.

Q: So the Predators failed to live up to expectations last season. They gave Ryan Ellis a massive contract extension this past August, they were the most active team at this past trade deadline, and still, no Stanley Cup in Nashville. What went wrong for the Preds against Dallas?

A: The offense went dry. The fact that there aren’t a lot of shooters on this team really hurt them. The top line of Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson was the only thing that got going. The only other player that really got going was former Panther Rocco Grimaldi; they need to go out and get another shooter.

Q: Going into this July, Nashville have just $7.1 million freed up in cap space and are tied into a lot of lengthy contracts. Kyle Turris and Viktor Arvidsson until 2024, Ryan Johansen until 2025, and Ryan Ellis until 2026. How important is it for Nashville to have financial flexibility over these next couple of seasons?

A: I’d say they just need to find the right players in their roster. They already have a nice core and are set to win, so just finding the players to have the right roster, the Preds can win a cup. They seem like a piece away. If they add a guy that they can use in more places than Ellis… it could work. Dante Fabbro can come in as a top-four guy, and there’s plenty in the farm that can turn out to become top-six players. The best way to fix this roster and win a cup is being smart with our moves.

Q: Recently, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm’s names have both been the subject of trade rumors surrounding the Predators. What, in your opinion, is the smartest option for the Predators to do, if one of Ellis or Ekholm has to be moved?

A: If one has to be moved, I’d try to go one-for-one, or go for a guy who can get 30 goals and 60 points at least. For Florida’s situation, I think Mike Hoffman would be perfect for our team. A guy who can come into our top six and score, while our defense is set with Fabbro. We can move some pieces around and make money elsewhere.

Q: For someone like Ellis, what do you expect out of him on a nightly basis?

A: He gives very solid play on the defensive end. His shots from the point are fair; he’s a solid piece for any defensive core. At least a top-four piece for any defensive team.

Q: And for Mattias Ekholm, are there similar standards to Ellis?

A: Yes, Ekholm plays on the left instead, but is very similar. He’s a better two-way piece and has more potential for points, but their expectations are similar. It’s a credit to Nashville that these two are second pairing defensemen rather than on the top line, because both could start for a majority of the teams around the league.

Q: To take attention away from Nashville, how much does one of these two help the Florida Panthers succeed at the next level?

A: Well, the Panthers have some depth problems at the moment. Adding one of these guys alongside some of the players Florida have been linked to – possibly Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky – and pair one of them with Keith Yandle or Aaron Ekblad will make the team much better. [Mike] Matheson struggled, and there were guys like [MacKenzie] Weegar and [Josh] Brown that weren’t quite consistent like these two can be. Having a guy like Ellis or Ekholm helps out in more places than one.

Next. Panthers Should Consider Acquiring Niklas Hjalmarsson. dark

The chances of landing one of Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm this summer are slim as it stands. However, if the Panthers really want to bolster their defense core and push for that next level, acquiring one of these two would certainly do wonders. We’d like to thank Colby for taking the time to chat with us about the possible availability of these two solid defensemen.