He is the all time goals and points leader in franchise history. His heart yearns to play, but his body may not be able to handle it, and as such, Patrik Elias remains in limbo, uncertain if he can have one last season as a member of the New Jersey Devils.
“I feel good one week; next week I’m ready to jump on ice, then the next week I don’t feel so good and I’m ready to call it quits, so it’s hard,” Elias said. “It’s about me, it’s about if I feel good enough to jump on the ice and enjoy the game. That’s it. You want to be successful and have fun, and fun is winning.
There have been a lot of ups and downs in Elias’ rehab from off-season knee surgery, that was expected to take six to nine months to heal. Elias is in month eight. The career Devil has expressed an interest in returning only to the Devils, but that is something he and general manager Ray Shero will have to discuss. Elias has given himself until February to make a decision on coming back this season.
“Playing with another team hasn’t crossed my mind,” said Elias. “It’s hard to say. If it comes to the point I’m healthy enough, and I think that I can play, I can help someone, and this team won’t have space or room for me, I might consider maybe going somewhere else.”
Elias has also talked to Shero about the possibility of joining the Devils front office, but that is something that will be tabled for a later date as he is still focused on playing the game he loves.
If his knee holds up for two weeks in a row, he will up the intensity of his workouts, and is willing to sign a professional try-out agreement with the only NHL team he’s ever known.
If it is indeed the end of Elias’ career, then he will retire having scored 408 goals, 617 assists for 1,025 points, all with the Devils, and he will have retired giving the Devils and their fans one last memory with his one goal, two assist performance versus the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last game of the 2015-16 season.
When you look at those numbers, they may not stand out as the biggest totals, but for someone who has played his whole career on the defensive minded Devils, it’s easy to assume that he could have reached 500 goals and 1,500 points playing in another organization. Elias will go down as one of the most underappreciated players of his generation.
From the Devils perspective, the team is lacking the skills that Elias brings to the table, a point that is not lost on Shero.
“We’re not so good that I can say I don’t want Patrik Elias. He has great puck skills, still. He’s been such a great player his entire career because of his hockey sense and compete level. He has a lot of that still.”
The Devils General Manager said there is no pressure on Elias from a team perspective.
“We’re doing everything we can to help him out to make a decision, but he’s going to be the one to tell me. I’m not badgering him,” Shero said. “I don’t see him playing for another team, and that’s just me. I consider Patrik a lifelong Devil.”
The clock is ticking, and everyone is waiting to see what the future holds for one of the game’s greatest players.