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Thursday's notes: Should the Predators keep Ryan Ellis up for the rest of the season?

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We'll kick off this morning's hockey notes with a question from that came by on Twitter, and is well worth digging into:

so when Klein and weber are both back in lineup..chance of Ellis staying up and Blum back to Milwaukee keeping 7 d-men? - @davidfarmer23

I would expect that Ryan Ellis will be heading back to Milwaukee once the injury situation improves, and it's not so much about his play as it is about managing Nashville's long-term hockey assets. As we all know, the major storyline hanging over this Nashville Predators season is what will happen with the Big 3 of Weber, Suter, and Rinne. Rinne's been locked up, but Ryan Suter will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Shea Weber won't hit that status until the summer of 2013.

So what does this have to do with Ryan Ellis?

The reason that Suter is reaching UFA status one year faster than Weber is because Suter is reaching the end of his 7th "Accrued Season", while Weber is only in his 6th. In the Collective Bargaining Agreement, an Accrued Season is defined as one in which that player was on his club's Active Roster for at least 40 games (30 for goalies). Weber's rookie season of 2005-6 (28 game played) didn't qualify, while Suter's (71 games played) did.

So in order to keep Ryan Ellis from hitting the UFA market a year earlier than they'd like, it behooves the Preds to send him back to the AHL for a while, then recall him for the stretch run if needed, just so long as he doesn't hit that 40-game mark (just as we saw with Jonathon Blum last season). That patient asset management goes along with the decision to let him complete his junior hockey career, even though some teams would have been tempted to keep him on their NHL roster in 2010-11.

Now granted, the CBA is being renegotiated in 2012, so terms are subject to change, and while it's quite possible that the number of years required for unrestricted free agency might change, I'd be surprised to see the definition of an Accrued Season altered significantly. Until those things get hammered out, David Poile needs to operate under the rules which are on the books today.

I hope that answers your question, David! Now, on to the morning hockey notes...

As always, the morning after a game I recommend you surf through the "More Predators Sites" box on the left-hand sidebar of the main page, as almost every Preds blog in town has a recap of last night's shootout win over Minnesota.

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