Dan Ellis has opinions and isn’t afraid to express them through various means.
Nearly two years ago, the goaltender vented via his Twitter account about a personal level of frustration regarding the 24-per-cent pay cut that was part of the expiring collective bargaining agreement.
It was met with a public backlash and he retracted the statement.
Earlier this week, the unrestricted free agent took to his email account and reached out to this reporter to trumpet how good a fit he would be as a backup to Cory Schneider next NHL season.
How much game the 32-year-old stopper has left after appearing in just 10 games last season behind Anaheim Ducks workhorse Jonas Hiller is debatable. Especially after undergoing hernia surgery in February.
But his willingness to sell himself isn’t up for debate.
“I would love to back up Cory if the spot becomes available,” Ellis said in the email. “Helping young goalies get to their full potential is fun to be a part of. Sometimes just lightening their load makes all the difference in the world.”
As Vancouver management mulls over trade offers for Roberto Luongo — while also waiting to see next week whether coveted UFA winger Shane Doan remains in Phoenix or considers the Canucks the cream of 16 suitors — there are options to bridge the goaltending gap until Eddie Lack is ready to be a prime-time crease companion for Schneider.
Some are less expensive than Ellis, who pocketed $1.5 million US for going just 1-5-0 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .911 saves percentage.
He’s far removed from a career-best 23-10-3 season with the Nashville Predators in 2007-08 that included a 2.34 GAA, .924 saves percentage and then spectacular postseason showings against the Detroit Red Wings, including a 52-save performance in a 2-1 overtime loss during the six-game series setback.
Ellis and Schneider share something in common in being represented by agent Mike Liut, but Ellis said there hasn’t been contact with the Canucks since free agency commenced. So, he’s selling himself.
“I’m still looking and there are some options in Europe, but I think I’ve got more than enough to give in the NHL,” Ellis said Wednesday from his offseason home in Omaha, Neb.
“That [Europe] is not an avenue I want to look into just yet. I’ve been in the NHL for five years and every year it seems like I’ve been in a 1A and 1B situation.”
In his first season with the Predators, Ellis worked with Chris Mason and then wrestled away the starting role.
In 2008-09 it was Pekka Rinne who reversed the situation before Ellis worked in tandem with Mike Smith and Dwayne Roloson in Tampa and then Hiller in Anaheim.
“I’ve been able to push my partner but also help make him better,” Ellis added.
“And I understand my role. I knew Hiller was the guy. Rather than trying to steal the net, you try to provide minutes but help your partner be the best he can be. It’s a different dynamic, but when the role is clarified, it’s a lot easier.
“The 1A and 1B can change and there’s a different mindset and every single game you don’t know what’s going to happen. Knowing Pekka and Jonas [were starters] you’re able to adapt to that and manage your game.”
Ellis believes he’ll adapt better next season following the surgery that allowed him to return to the crease for the final week of the regular season.
The procedure was the end result of a November groin pull that became a tear because Ellis returned in a week after the initial pull to spell the workhorse Hiller. But the condition worsened.
“Hiller seemed to be getting tired because he was playing every night,” Ellis said of the starter who, along with Rinne, logged a league high 73 games.
“I battled through a couple of months and took meds but eventually the groin just kind of gave way and snapped off. I feel better now and more flexible than I did before.”
The Canucks can go a number of ways to find the right fit for Schneider.
The UFA market is shallow and aging and includes under-performers in former Canucks Alex Auld (31, $1 million) and Brent Johnson (35, $600,000) as well as Marty Turco (36, $600,000).
The Canucks could take a goaltender back in a Luongo swap or trade for one, especially if Phoenix is willing to part with former Canuck Jason LaBarbera, 32, who has a year left at $1.25 million.
Then again, Ellis might be a financial fit, too. Especially if he’s willing to take less and a short term to accommodate Lack’s learning curve.
“Whatever is best for the team,” stressed Ellis, who has kept in contact with former Predators teammate Dan Hamhuis.
“I’ve never been a guy who chased the money. Winning replaces any amount of money. I’m at the point where I want to help a team win the Stanley Cup with whatever role that is. I feel I can bring those quality minutes.”
OF NOTE — Defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani, who wasn’t qualified by the Canucks, has signed a two-way contract with the Carolina Hurricanes that pays $800,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 in the minors. Gragnani was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline and had three points (1-2) in 14 regular-season games and didn’t play in the postseason.