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Ellis finds a home by the Bay

by Dan Rosen
Dan Ellis wanted to find a team that would give him a chance to compete to be the No. 1 goalie and a chance to win. He thinks he has that in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ellis, who played his first three NHL seasons in Nashville from 2008-10, has signed a two-year contract to compete with Mike Smith for the No. 1 job in Tampa, a city experiencing a hockey overhaul this summer with Steve Yzerman coming in as GM and Guy Boucher as coach.

"I just felt deep in my heart that Tampa Bay was the right place," Ellis said. "I had other options, but there was a certain pull towards Tampa that I can't really explain. It was something I felt on the inside and was one of those things you go with your gut on. Based on what Tampa Bay has to offer, it looks like I made the right decision. I am very happy, very relieved, and I am looking forward to having a great season."

Pekka Rinne's emergence as the Predators' No. 1 goalie gave Ellis the chance to test his value on the open market starting at noon ET Thursday. Nashville GM David Poile had traded his negotiating rights to Montreal, but Ellis reportedly never got close to a deal with the Canadiens.

He was rumored to be in talks with several teams Thursday before finally striking a deal with the Bolts.

"To me, the Lightning are an up-and-coming team that has all the right pieces," Ellis said. "They have a great scoring line with (Steven) Stamkos and (Martin) St. Louis. They have great defensive players like (Victor) Hedman and (Mattias) Ohlund. Mike Smith, I think, is going to be a great goaltending partner and they picked up a world-class coach and GM this summer. It is a team to me that is headed in the right direction and as soon as I saw the direction they were going, they quickly became my No. 1 option."

Antero Niittymaki's departure to San Jose opened the door for Ellis in Tampa Bay. Smith has not proven to be the answer there yet, and now he'll get serious competition from Ellis for playing time.

Ellis played 111 games for the Predators and went 50-42-8 with 10 shutouts. He posted a 2.64 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. Ellis signed a two-year deal just before the '08 Entry Draft, but halfway through the 2008-09 season Rinne emerged and stole the No. 1 job away from him.

In 31 games as Rinne's backup this past season, Ellis was 15-13-1 with a 2.69 GAA and .909 save percentage.

"The world-class players they already have there were definitely an attraction," Ellis said. "The lineup they have there gave me good confidence in wanting to go there, and then when you see them bring in a new owner in Jeff Vinik, who wants to turn around the organization into world-class, along with a coach, a GM and players who all believe in the same thing, it just presented an exciting atmosphere that I wanted to be part of."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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