McKenzie: How will Ellis, Price play alongside one another?

Bob McKenzie
6/29/2010 7:28:38 PM
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The big question, and it's a bit too soon to answer it, is whether Dan Ellis would feel comfortable playing alongside Carey Price in Montreal.

One supposes it's possible Ellis could be the undisputed No. 1 goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, ahead of Price – much like Jaro Halak was down the stretch drive of the regular season and the playoffs – but one would have to concede it's entirely possible Ellis could end up in Montreal with Price how he finished up in Nashville. That is, playing behind Pekka Rinne.

On the bright side, for Montreal anyway, Ellis said he's “excited” about the trade and added “hope we can figure something out.”

But there may be other organizations where the goaltending pecking order is likely to be more defined for Ellis. He and his agent Mike Liut could wait it out until Thursday and see what offers come his way and weigh them against the Montreal scenario.

Personally, I would be shocked if the Canadiens sign Ellis prior to free agency on Thursday and I would be surprised if the Montreal option is Ellis's best when all is said and done. Ellis and Halak share the same agency for representation – Octagon – although Halak is represented by Allan Walsh and Ellis by Liut. Still, it wouldn't be difficult for Ellis to talk to Halak about what it's like to be play alongside Price in Montreal, if he were so inclined.

Still, this is a low-risk, high-reward transaction for the Canadiens.

Sergei Kostitsyn is a talented offensive player but he wasn't going to get it done in Montreal. He was essentially persona non grata with the Canadiens during the playoffs and, quite frankly, he had become more trouble than he was worth because of what the coaching staff and his teammates perceived as a bad attitude.

The fact Montreal got a useful forward in Dustin Boyd included in the deal is a bonus. Boyd is a solid citizen, a potential third- or fourth-line forward who can play a good, solid two-way game.

Every player in the transaction is a free agent of sorts. Ellis, of course, is unrestricted. Boyd becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 because Nashville didn't qualify him by 5 p.m. last night. Kostitsyn is a restricted free agent.

From Nashville's perspective the trade makes sense on a couple of levels.

One, they weren't going to re-sign Ellis and if they did re-sign Boyd, it may have been at a price that was too high for his role on the Predators. Boyd had to be qualified at $715,000 and had arbitration rights, which means he could have ended up with a salary of around $1 million on Nashville. He's a depth player on a team that has good depth in the bottom half of the roster, but that is shy of top-end offensive talent. That's why Nashville chose to not qualify him and put him into unrestricted free agency on July 1.

So, two, the Preds get to roll the dice on a temperamental but talented underachiever in Kostitsyn who desperately needs a fresh start out of Montreal.

But even if Kostitsyn opted to go to the KHL or didn't want to settle for whatever the Preds offer him, Nashville is content to put him in cold storage and know that they're not going to get caught paying Boyd $1 million for third or fourth-line work.

In a perfect world for Nashville, Kostitsyn will sign with the Preds and he'll be a model citizen on and off the ice and shoot out the lights like he did in junior with the London Knights when he was a linemate of Patrick Kane's and Sam Gagner's.

But if not, Nashville is fine with that too.

The future considerations in the deal are really quite simple. Because none of the players are signed to contracts for next season, whichever team signs the traded players owes the other team a late-round draft choice. No big deal there.

Montreal, of course, gets a head start signing Ellis and Boyd before free agency and while Ellis may be a longshot to get done in Montreal, one would have to think Boyd might see a good fit in Montreal for himself.

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Bob McKenzie


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