Ryan Ellis doesn't yet know Ivan Provorov.
But by the likeness of their on-ice intentions, the two should get along just fine. How well they work together will be imperative to the Flyers' chances at rebounding from a disconcerting and disappointing 2020-21 season.
"I just try to do whatever the team needs at the time to win, whether it be blocking shots or making defensive plays," Ellis said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. "If we're down, it be cheating on offense, trying to make plays happen offensively. Honestly, I just pride myself on being a team-first guy. Whatever it takes to win at that time, hopefully that's what you're going to see out of me.
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"At this point in my career, all I want to do is win and this organization has got a winning standard and expectations to do so. For me, I'm going to try to play my game and help the team out any way I can going forward. If that's scoring goals or stopping goals, doing both, whatever it takes to help this team win."
The mindset is reminiscent of Provorov, a guy who wants to do everything and anything to win.
The Flyers on Saturday summoned the 30-year-old Ellis from Nashville to fortify their top defensive pair. The hole next to the 24-year-old Provorov was evident all last season, when the Flyers missed the playoffs and permitted more goals than any other team in hockey at 3.52 per game.
Around the Delaware Valley, the hole was infamously known as the Matt Niskanen retirement void.
The Flyers' first objective this offseason was to fill it as general manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Ellis from the Predators in exchange for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick. He did so prior to the expansion draft, entry draft and free agency. The club's offseason reshaping is far from finished, but landing Ellis was an important first step.
"We paid a price, we recognize that," Fletcher said Saturday, "but it's just very difficult to get to defensemen like this."
Ellis is an established, well-rounded, righty-shot defenseman who takes on a ton of responsibility. His entire 10-year NHL career has come in Nashville. Among all NHL defensemen over that span, Ellis has the fifth-best on-ice goal differential at even strength with a plus-109 mark, behind only Ryan McDonagh (plus-162), Zdeno Chara (plus-152), Victor Hedman (plus-119) and Niskanen (plus-115).
The Predators have not missed the playoffs the past seven seasons, a stretch that featured a run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. In that span, Ellis has played two-plus minutes per game on the power play and penalty kill, has 64 goals (16 on the power play, three at shorthanded), 162 assists and a plus-102 rating.
He does a lot. So does the lefty-shot Provorov, who has never missed a game in his career and has been labeled "a machine" by Jakub Voracek.
Ellis and Provorov are about to get to know each other. Good chance they'll like the other's game.
"In the last couple years, I don’t even know how many times I've played at the Wells Fargo Center," Ellis said. "I know he’s an unbelievable player, he’s got terrific skill, I’ve seen him score some awesome goals on the highlights. Him being in the East and us in the West previously, I just didn’t see him a lot to be honest.
"I know they have a great core, the core has been there for a long time. They've had a lot of success, so I’m just looking forward to jumping in, being another player, contribute any way I can, whether it be on the ice or off. Just be another guy in the room trying to chase something together."
Ellis, who has dealt with injuries in his career, missed all of March last season with an upper-body issue that was rumored to be to his shoulder. Ellis debunked that, clarifying he broke a bone in one of his hands. While Nashville head coach John Hynes said on March 22 that the defenseman had surgery, it was unclear on Tuesday whether Ellis underwent any kind of procedure last season for an injury. Regardless, Ellis declared himself healthy. Despite playing 35 of the Predators' 56 games, Ellis was very effective down the stretch as Nashville pushed into the playoffs.
"I don't know what shoulder you’re talking about," Ellis said. "I shattered my knuckle last year, so that was what I missed time for. ... I'm healthy, I'm hungry, I'm happy and excited to be a member of the Flyers."
As Ellis addressed the media Tuesday, Saturday's news appeared to still be fresh. He hadn't gotten a chance yet to touch base with some of his former Nashville teammates about parting ways.
"I didn't envision any of this, to be honest, ever," Ellis, who is under contract for the next six seasons, said. "I've never been traded or anything in my life. It was a shock and a lot of surprise. After that, got to move on and move forward. I'm excited at the next chapter. It was sad, I honestly haven’t even talked to all of them yet because it's been so busy the last few days. Moving forward and moving on and I'm excited to be a part of the Flyers' organization.
"First time going through it, so it’s a bit of a shock to the system and to me and my family. But nothing but looking forward from here. We’re excited to get there, get settled and start a chase for the Cup."
It will start with Ellis and Provorov getting settled as a new pair, with similar games and the same goal.
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