As far as contract renewals go, decisions don’t get much easier than this.
Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said Thursday that paperwork has been filed on a 25-game extension of goalie Dan Ellis’ tryout contract, allowing him to remain with the team after his previous deal expired earlier in the week. As such, the 32-year-old will be in the lineup when the team begins its three-in-three weekend against Houston on Friday.
Though the team wasn’t entirely sure what it was getting when it first brought Ellis, who had missed the second half of last season due to a groin injury and subsequent sports hernia, into the fold on the eve of training camp, his play has backed up his five full seasons of NHL experience.
“He’s played great for us all along and has been a leader in the locker room,” said Daniels. “It really was a no-brainer for us to bring him back, and it was just a matter of making sure he felt the same way.”
As it turned out, he did.
“It was an easy decision,” said Ellis. “I wanted to be here from the start. This is the best American League organization I’ve been a part of, and they’re very well-run throughout the staff. Why wouldn’t you want to come back?”
Ellis, who became a full-time NHL player with Nashville before moving on to Tampa Bay and Anaheim, last played in the AHL with Iowa, the Dallas Stars’ affiliate, in 2007, during his fourth professional season.
Despite having the bad luck of being in net for some of the Checkers’ poorest performances as a team this season, including the 7-2 loss to Oklahoma City on Nov. 25, Ellis, who currently has a 2.43 goals-against average and .927 save percentage, has ranked in the top 10 in relevant statistical categories through the season. He even took home the league’s Player of the Week Award in October while he was in the midst of a 157-minute shutout streak.
“I just wanted to be sure that I can play at the level I know I can,” said Ellis, who led the NHL with a .938 save percentage in 2007-08, of his goals upon joining the team in September. “I feel awesome. I’m 100 percent healthy right now and my injury feels the way I want it to. Anything else is just the way you always want to improve regardless of your health.”
As Daniels alluded to, Ellis, easily the oldest and most experience player on the team, has been an important voice on a team filled with players that are, on average, around 10 years younger.
“Team-wise we went through some growing pains for a couple of games there, but overall, I think we’ve done really well.”
Though Ellis made back-to-back starts for the first time this season last week, he is expected to continue to split games with Justin Peters for the immediate future.