The NHL finally made a ruling on Corey Perry’s illegal and dangerous hit on Ryan Ellis at the 2020 Winter Classic on Wednesday. The Player of Department Safety suspended Perry for five games following the elbow to Ryan Ellis’ head.

While this suspension is fair, given the context and precedent of the NHL’s previous rulings, this decision will probably come as a disappointment to Preds fans. This is because earlier today, the Preds put Ryan Ellis on injured reserve and it doesn’t look likely he’ll be back anytime soon.

While it’s referred to as an “upper body injury”, it’s safe to say Ellis is probably dealing with a concussion. He was knocked out on the ice and down for at least a full minute, then he left the ice and did not return. His condition did not seem promising, though he was moving and able to skate off after the incident.

For the Preds, this could not have come at a worse time.

With Ryan Ellis out, the defense takes a hit

It’s no surprise that Ryan Ellis is a huge piece to the Preds’ defensive corps. A glance at the potential defensive lineup that might emerge with his absence only solidifies that fact more.

At Friday’s practice in Los Angeles, the Preds ran the following defensive pairings, according to Brooks Bratten:

Roman Josi – Yannick Weber

Mattias Ekholm – Jarred Tinordi

Dan Hamhuis – Matt Irwin

Though it seems likely that Dante Fabbro will be back in the lineup for Saturday, this is not a very fast or skilled defensive lineup.

For one, Jarred Tinordi is at best an AHL defenseman at this point in his career. He has not shown he has the speed or skill to stay in an NHL lineup and the Preds do not need another slow footed defender in the system.

However, the Preds did recall Alexandre Carrier from Milwaukee on Friday as well. Presumably, he would replace either Tinordi or Matt Irwin in the lineup. Carrier was just named to the AHL All-Star team and has been very solid for the Admirals this season. He was called up for his debut nearly three years ago and been brewing in the AHL ever since, so he probably deserved another shot.

Thankfully for Preds fans, Friday’s defensive lineup is probably not what we will see in the Staples Center on Saturday night. But it does give a glimpse into what the future might bring without Ryan Ellis, one of the best defensemen in the game right now.

Ellis’ value on offense and defense will be missed

According to Evolving Hockey, Ryan Ellis leads the league in “goals above replacement”, a measurement which assigns a total value of a player to his team. It’s essentially the same thing as “WAR” in baseball, telling you how many goals for and against Ellis would score or give up compared to an average player at his position.

Here’s a nice visual that shows who Ellis is beating out for this accolade:

Ryan Ellis Nashville Predators

That’s some seriously intense competition. And it should be pointed out that his “even strength offense” is a significant portion of his total, which just means that the bulk of Ellis’ contributions come during even strength play in the offensive end.

All in all, the Preds are now without one of the best players in the league in overall value to the team. It will be nearly impossible to replace him, even with a Norris caliber Roman Josi still leading the way.

We don’t know how long Ryan Ellis will be out. It could be weeks, it could be months. What we do know is an already struggling Nashville Predators team just lost a very important contributor and no suspension to Corey Perry can bring him back.

— Featured image via Tim Flores/USA TODAY Sports —
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