The Nashville Predators made a shocking move on Saturday by trading long time defenseman and alternate captain Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers. In return they received defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick, who they then flipped to Vegas for forward Cody Glass.

The reaction on social media was immediate and, as you might expect after a team traded one of its popular leaders, largely critical of the move:

But there are at least two reason why this move had to happen and why David Poile is finally making moves that he promised he would make months ago.

It’s time to change up the Preds’ core

David Poile has been talking about changing up the Nashville Predators’ core for a while now. He mentioned it after the first round loss to Dallas in 2019. He mentioned it after the qualifying round loss to Arizona in the NHL’s playoff bubble. And he mentioned it this past season after losing yet again in the first round, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The core of players that helped carry the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and then claim the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018 is no longer effective. Not only have they been shedding many of the veterans that fueled those two runs (James Neal, Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, Pekka Rinne, Viktor Arvidsson, and now Ryan Ellis) without adequately replacing them in the lineup, the core players on those teams are not dominating the league like they once did.

Even the list of untouchable players on the Nashville Predators has grown short: I would only put Roman Josi on the list right now.

Since Poile first mentioned breaking up the core of the team a couple seasons ago, he’s failed to deliver fully on that promise. Now he’s doing it. While it may be “too little too late”, this Predators team has been due a makeover if they want to reload and regain competitiveness.

Money is tight, so David Poile is saving it

It seems like every offseason there’s a money crunch for David Poile to deal with. Last offseason he had to deal with Kyle Turris, whom he bought out. This year, he’s faced with what to do about Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, who have massive contracts on the books.

I’m not sure many people saw a solution to those money problems in trading Ryan Ellis.

But it is in fact a solution that works.

Ryan Ellis is owed $6.25 million annually for the next six seasons, an amount that will only get more painful to deal with as Ellis gets older. He will be 36 years old in the final year of that contract.

Nashville Predators Ryan Ellis

Ellis also has an injury history: he’s missed 41 games due to injury in the Preds’ last two seasons. Most of that is due to the egregious hit to the head at the Winter Classic by Corey Perry, in which he suffered a concussion.

Freeing up $37.5 million over the next six years has to be liberating for David Poile. Especially considering the league may have a flat cap (i.e., no annual increase to the $81.5 million cap due to revenue growth) for the foreseeable future.

Poile can now spend that money many different ways. He can lock up young players like Juuse Saros, Alex Carrier, Eeli Tolvanen, Dante Fabbro. He can spend wisely on the free agent market, hopefully choosing more carefully than he did with Kyle Turris and Matt Duchene. He can save the money for a rainy day, maximizing its potential for when the team has a real contender on its hands.

And let’s not forget that the Preds got real assets in return for Ryan Ellis. Cody Glass was the 6th overall pick in the 2017 draft and hailed as a high quality top six forward at the time. He’s had a knee injury to deal with and couldn’t quite crack Vegas’s loaded forward roster the last two seasons. But he’s only 22 years old. He could be a star alongside other young forwards like Eeli Tolvanen and Philip Tomasino.

Philippe Myers will be an instant starter on defense. He’s got size like Ben Harpur or Jarred Tinordi, but he’s a legitimate defender with real skill. He put up 16 points in 50 games for the Flyers in 2020, then 11 points in 44 games last season.

Ryan Ellis is as popular as he is skilled. The Preds are losing a real veteran blueliner that can carry a team to the Stanley Cup Final, thus why plenty of fans are devastated after losing him.

But the reasons for David Poile making this move are purely about the business. He needed to make changes to the core and he needed to free up cap money. If the Nashville Predators are contenders again in a few years, you can probably point to this move as one of the reasons why.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —