Patrik Elias has done about everything he can do in New Jersey, but the 40-year-old Devils legend could still be coming back for one more season. Devils GM Ray Shero isn’t about to rush Elias into a decision, though.
Elias played only 16 games in 2015-16 while dealing with knee injuries, and he spent the early off-season recovering from right knee surgery and training in the Czech Republic. However, Elias has returned to New Jersey to continue his training and it could still be some time before the veteran winger decides whether or not he’s got one more season in him.
“There’s no deadline whatsoever,” Shero told The Record’s Andrew Gross. “We’ll just keep in communication with him and see how he’s feeling.”
The issue with Elias is that the knee injury, especially at his age, is hard to judge. With him missing so much time — he was shelved with the ailment for spans of 20 and 45 games this past season — it’s hard to know not only how his body will react to the rigors of an NHL season, but how he’ll fare when he gets into competition. He underwent surgery in May to repair his knee, but the recovery is still ongoing.
One of the bigger concerns is Elias trying to push himself too early in his effort to get back, which sounds bizarre considering he’s more than five months removed from going under the knife. However, if he were to injure his knee further in training, it could sadly become a physical impossibility for him to return to action. According to Shero, though, Elias is in fantastic shape and looks ready for another campaign, so it really is all up to how his knee holds up once activity picks up.
“We’re talking about his knee here so whenever he gets to that point where he can push a little bit more and kind of see how it reacts, I think that’s where he’s got to get to,” Shero told Gross. “Whether that’s at some point later on (maybe) he can rejoin us for practice and see how he does and see how the knee reacts.”
That Shero left the door open for Elias to join the team in practice likely means that a decision won’t even be coming before the start of the season, which is less than one month away. The Devils open their campaign on Oct. 13 against the Florida Panthers, but Elias could choose to simply remain practicing with the team until he makes a decision. That’s not an uncommon sight in New Jersey.
In 2014, Scott Gomez, who recently retired, was a practice player with the Devils from October until December. Injuries opened up a spot on the roster, and he landed a one-year deal in New Jersey. Elias’ situation could be similar, though it likely wouldn’t take an injury for him to get back into the lineup.
If Elias has played his last game, however, he will have gone out in style. In the last game of the 2015-16 season, Elias notched one goal and three points against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
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