Patrik Elias was limited to just 16 games in the 2015-16 season due to knee injuries and underwent off-season knee surgery. Entering the off-season without a deal for 2016-17, the 40-year-old “desperately” wants to be healthy enough to play for the Devils next season.
Patrik Elias is less than two months removed from his 40th birthday, but he may not be ready to hang up his skates just yet.
Even though Elias is coming off of an injury-riddled campaign that saw him able to suit up for only 16 games, Elias’ agent, Allan Walsh, told Sportsnet that Elias isn’t set on making the tough season his last one in the NHL. In the 16 games he was able to play between dealing with knee injuries, Elias scored two goals and eight points, but he wants to see if he can give it one more go with Devils.
“He desperately wants to play one more year,” Walsh told Sportsnet. “We’re not talking to other teams. If Patrik is able to play at the level he expects himself to play, if he can contribute to a team, I think New Jersey would very much love to have him back.”
Bringing Elias back wouldn’t exactly be difficult for the Devils, either. New Jersey has roughly $44.7 million tied up next season against the salary cap with more than $29 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, and that’s before any potential increase in the upper limit. The Devils have a number of players to lock up — nine roster regulars are set for unrestricted free agents and six are restricted free agents — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for Elias.
Though he was in the final season of a three-year, $16.5-million deal this past campaign, it’s unlikely the Devils would shell out that kind of cash to bring the veteran winger back. In all likelihood, a salary for Elias would top out anywhere $2-4 million depending on New Jersey’s cap situation once they’ve got the necessary pieces under contract. That’s doable, and it’s not like Elias would need anything more than a one-year deal.
Elias’ production dropped precipitously in the 2014-15 season, his last “full” campaign, with him scoring 13 goals and 34 points in 69 games, but as a veteran presence on a Devils that is likely to get much younger over the next few seasons, he could be a valuable asset in the dressing room and in a limited, middle-six role. He’s definitely not as mobile as he once was, in part due to the knee injuries and age, but his vision and passing ability could make him a top-unit power play specialist, too.
In May, the Devils announced that Elias went under the knife for another knee surgery — the same knee that caused him to miss 65 games in 2015-16 — and that the team is keeping an eye on Elias’ recovery. So the biggest hurdle at this point doesn’t seem to be whether the Devils want Elias back or his desire to return to the team, it appears to be his health and if he can handle the rigors of a full season.
If Elias does come back to the Devils, it would mark his 20th campaign with the club that drafted him 51st overall in 1994. Elias is a three-time all-star, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and has been one of the faces of the franchise almost since the moment he broke into the NHL on a full-time basis. He’s the Devils’ all-time leader in goals (408), assists (617), points (1,025) and only half a season shy of passing Ken Daneyko as New Jersey’s all-time leader in games played.