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Numbers Game: Ellis Gets His Chance in Tampa Bay

Scott Cullen
7/1/2010 6:06:15 PM
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Looking for an opportunity to start, Dan Ellis should have a chance to play a more significant role now that he's signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Numbers Game looks at the Lightning's new goaltender.

The Lightning Get: G Dan Ellis.

With Antero Niittymaki leaving Tampa Bay to sign with San Jose, the Lightning needed another goaltender to at least compete for the starting job and Ellis was looking for the chance to at least battle for playing time.

Ellis, 30, opened a lot of eyes in 2007-2008, when he posted a 2.34 goals against average and .924 save percentage in his first NHL season, but since then he's been surpassed by Pekka Rinne on the Nashville Predators' depth chart.

It's not that Ellis has played poorly since then, as last year's .909 save percentage is about league average, but he's worth consideration for a starting job and comes inexpensively as a good backup or potentially inexpensive starter, signing for $3-million over two seasons.

While Ellis was traded from Nashville to Montreal shortly before free agency kicked off, the Canadiens' rising young starter in Carey Price and the kind of money they were willing to pay his backup understandably didn't fit with Ellis' objectives,

Ellis will battle for playing time with Mike Smith, his former teammate from the Dallas Stars organization, who struggled last season.

Since both goaltenders are relatively unproven as NHL starters, it's fair to think that one might start as many as 50 games but, unless one performs at an exceptional level, likely not much more than that.  It could very well end up being a split duty situation.

In Nashville, the Predators will need a goaltender to back up incumbent starter Pekka Rinne, but there shouldn't be any rush.  With proven goaltenders available on the free agent market, and not so many jobs, the Predators can take their time to make the best value selection. 

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

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