Panthers sign pending RFA Keaton Ellerby to one-year deal
According to Harvey Fialkov at the Sun-Sentinel, the Panthers have signed defenseman and pending restricted free agent Keaton Ellerby to a one-year, one-way deal. Ellerby, who earned the ire of Rochester Americans this season had 2 goals and 10 assists, 22 penalty minutes and was a -15 in 54 games for the Panthers this season and 2 goals and 3 assists with 8 penalty minutes and a +8 rating in 17 games for the Amerks.
Ellerby had some trouble sticking in the lineup this season, at one point following up a stretch of games where he and defensive partner Dmitry Kulikov played very well with a couple so bad that he got sent back to Rochester for a few games until Dale Tallon trade half the blueline away. However, following the deadline, even before Kulikov's return from injury, Ellerby started again looking like one of the future cornerstones of the Panthers' defense.
One of the biggest knocks against former coach Peter DeBoer was that players were scared to make a mistake in fear of getting benched or sent down to Rochester, and it showed in the play of Ellerby, Michal Repik and others. Once the defense was so depleted that it was impossible for Ellerby to be sent down, he relaxed and started playing very well, playing on a defense with no stars that nonetheless kept almost every game down the stretch within one goal. With a new coach, Ellerby should flourish.
The one-way deal means that he is expected to play the whole season for the Panthers, but the one-year term likely means that he is still expected to prove that he deserves to be part of the team long-term. Expect both him and Dmitry Kulikov to make the case that they deserve long-term deals and big raises by the end of the upcoming season.