Flyers Face Uncertainty with Ellis Injury History

Ryan Ellis has missed 25 of 29 games in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers due to an upper-body injury. According to Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the issue appears to be in the hip/groin area, but the team has not given specific clarity. The timetable for his return has been difficult for the organization to pinpoint, and they’ve released several different estimations throughout the season. They hope to have him back in the lineup soon, but the murky nature of the situation and the lack of clarity are causing some fans to worry about potential long-term ramifications for a player just a few weeks ahead of his 31st birthday who has now missed 20 or more games in four of the past five seasons.    

Ellis Missing from Flyers Lineup

General manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Ellis from the Nashville Predators in July in exchange for Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers. The veteran blueliner appeared to be the perfect piece to plug the gaping hole next to Ivan Provorov on the Flyers top defensive pairing. The organization was excited to have an all-situation defenseman with the type of track record that Ellis brought, and he looked great throughout training camp and the first three games of the 2021-22 season.

Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During those three games, he compensated for an injury he suffered during the Flyers final preseason game on Oct. 8. 

“I thought I could manage it, played three and the third one, it more or less failed me.” Ellis said back in October. “(I) couldn’t continue and here’s where we’re at.”

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The Flyers did not communicate any expectations for a long-term absence, but he missed the next nine games. He played against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 13 and suffered an apparent setback. Five days later, the Flyers announced he would miss another 4-6 weeks. An injury that Ellis didn’t initially consider serious enough to keep him out at all had officially become a major concern.  

Long List of Injuries to Ellis

Ellis underwent knee surgery during the offseason following Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. He missed the first 38 games of the 2017-18 season before returning to the lineup on Jan. 2, 2018. The timetable aligned well with Predators GM David Poile’s initial estimation that Ellis would be available again around the turn of the calendar year. He remained in the lineup for the next 184 regular season and playoff games for the Predators.

Former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During the 2020 Winter Classic, Ellis suffered a concussion from a hit to the head by former Stars winger Corey Perry. He missed the next 20 games. In 2020-21, his final season in Nashville, he missed 21 games after breaking a knuckle on his left hand. The good news for Philadelphia is that none of his previous injuries are related to the nagging lower-body injury he is currently dealing with.

Related: Flyers’ Provorov Failing to Realize No. 1 Defenseman Potential

Groin injuries can slow hockey players down significantly because of muscles used in a skating motion, and the injury history is notable, especially for a player at Ellis’ age. This particular circumstance, however, has several variables that are difficult to quantify. Nobody in the organization officially announced a groin injury, and there are many different types and levels of severity of groin injuries. Fletcher said on Dec. 20 that the timetable for a return is “still a week-to-week situation.”  On Dec. 30, six weeks will have officially passed since the beginning of the 4-6 week estimated timetable.

Future of Ellis with Flyers

The concept of being injury-prone is subjective for media members without medical expertise, but the Flyers unquestionably face less than ideal circumstances with Ellis. They acquired him with six seasons remaining on his current contract with a $6.25 million annual cap hit. The Flyers did not give up essential long-term building blocks to get the injured defenseman, but they will still feel the long-term financial consequences of the trade if Ellis continues to miss significant time.

Since Ellis last played, the Flyers have limped through a 10-game losing streak and changed head coaches. They need to answer a long list of questions throughout the remainder of the regular season. They need to determine their full-time head coach, the future of franchise legend Claude Giroux, and the organization’s overall direction of rebuilding or “win now” mode. The long-term health of their expected top defenseman is yet another key storyline that will unfold over the next few months.

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