VOORHEES, N.J. — Back in late April, Ryan Ellis, previously beleaguered and perplexed by his injury, spoke excitingly about the "plan."
The summer plan to recover from his "multilayered" injury in his pelvic region had multiple layers.
One of the layers: "Ramp it up in July," Ellis said.
That imperative layer has just about arrived. The subsequent results from it will be telling for the outlook of both Ellis and the Flyers' offseason.
Ellis' complex injury cost the top-pair defenseman all but four games last season, his first with the Flyers after being acquired in a trade last July.
This July, the Flyers will wait and see how Ellis feels as their plan ramps up.
It's an important point for Ellis as he tests the injury and tries to strengthen everything in that area, along with his chances at being healthy for September training camp.
It's also an important point for general manager Chuck Fletcher with free agency set to open in two weeks. If Ellis starts to check off boxes and appears on track to be healthy, he would make the Flyers' defense exponentially more formidable. If Ellis hits roadblocks, Fletcher will have to be significantly more aggressive and creative in acquiring help on defense.
For Ellis and the Flyers, so far, so good on the plan.
"He's continuing to progress," Fletcher said Wednesday. "He's certainly improved since the end of the season, he's certainly further along now than he was a month ago or two months ago.
"In saying that, the bulk of his rehab is still ahead of him. He's starting to intensify his off-ice workouts, it's going well, but there are several more steps to go before he gets on the ice. It's still difficult, if not impossible, to predict where he'll be in two or three months. The last month has been encouraging, but there's still more work to do."
Do they believe Ellis will be ready for training camp?
"I don't know how anybody could predict that right now," Fletcher said. "That's certainly the hope and the goal, but we'll have to see. Starting to ramp up the rehab, which is great that he's at that point where he can ramp it up, but we'll just have to see how everything responds.
"It's almost everything in the middle of the body. There are multiple areas that he's working to strengthen and rehab, trying to put all the pieces back together, so to speak. He’s made progress, he is determined to get back and, not just play, but be a good hockey player, be the player that we wanted him to be when we acquired him."
The 31-year-old Ellis has a strong track record of all-situation abilities. He was an accomplished player for the Predators, but he also dealt with injuries.
As he joined the Flyers, Ellis had shown early chemistry alongside Ivan Provorov on the club's top defensive pair. They bonded in training camp. The duo was expected to play comprehensive minutes.
"Then his world came crashing down," Fletcher said about Ellis.
Ellis played in the Flyers' first three games of the season. Then, after missing nine games, he suffered a reinjury in his return to the lineup Nov. 13. He originally sustained the injury in the Flyers' preseason finale Oct. 8.
"He was probably the most excited player last training camp coming in after he got over the initial shock of coming from Nashville," Fletcher said. "So excited to play and it was incredible watching him, he spent just hour after hour with Ivan Provorov. They had breakfast together, they talked together before practice, they were partners on the ice, they had lunch together. He wanted to get to know Ivan so well that they would build this chemistry as quickly as they could, on and off the ice. I was like, 'This guy's a true professional.' It was incredible watching him interact with Ivan and Ivan interact with him, and how they were trying to make each other better."
Despite receiving bad news recently on Joel Farabee, who had to undergo neck surgery last Friday, Fletcher said Sean Couturier (back) and Kevin Hayes (abdominal) are doing "great." The GM knocked on the press conference table as he spoke about the good news.
He hopes they'll get more good news on Ellis throughout July and August.
"He’s very excited and bound and determined to get back. He’s made progress," Fletcher said. "I’m not trying to be vague, but I just don’t think anybody could look anybody in the eye and say he’ll be back by this time frame.
"He’s where we thought he would be, he’s where the medical people thought he would be. But then he’s got another step he’s got to take, hopefully that responds. And then another step and then get on the ice and then how does that respond. It may go quicker, it may go slower.
"For me, the ultimate goal is to make sure we get him back as quickly as possible. The goal has been for camp and for the start of the season. Hopefully that’s the case, but the bigger picture here is making sure we get him back and that's what we're focused on."
Regardless of how the next few weeks go, Fletcher will have to add to his defense this offseason. The Flyers will need insurance and they'll have to figure out their third pair.
"I would think over the next month, we would start to get a pretty good picture as he continues to advance in his rehab protocols, both off the ice and on the ice," Fletcher said about the offseason decisions hinging on Ellis' recovery. "Is he still going forward? Are there any steps back? Does he stall at a certain step? This is all the uncertainty. ... I’m trying to be as completely transparent as I can be. There is certainly a path where it could go really well. But we'll just have to see."
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