Whither Patrik Elias’s future?

(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Brendan Porto.)

There is no question at all that Patrik Elias is one of the Devils’ best players of all time. He is the only one to break 1,000 points in a Devils uniform (and in fact the only one to break 702). He won two Stanley Cups. He has the team’s single-season points record (97) as well as two more in the top 20 all-time. No Devil has scored more goals, no Devil has set up more goals.

I’ve argued this before: he’s a borderline Hockey Hall of Famer. He certainly deserves to have his number retired.

But he’s also 38, and the Devils are rebuilding (maybe?). His points per game this season came in at the lowest level since 1996-97, and his possession numbers were, umm, wanting. And so you have to wonder if this is it.

But what’s interesting is that the Devils use him in much the same way (and to much lesser effect) than the Bruins do Patrice Bergeron. Toughest assignments on the team in terms of quality of competition, and some rather unfavorable zone starts as well. So it seems that while he’s not producing in the 50-65 points range like he did for almost a decade and a half — seriously, his lowest non-lockout point total from 1998 to 2014 was 45, and that was because he only played 38 games that year — he’s still decent enough at beating back the opposition that he’s trusted in that role against the iron of the league. (This may, however, relate back to New Jersey just not having the horses to let anyone else do it for him.)

He has only one year left on his current deal, which pays him $5.5 million, and even if he wasn’t great this year — he wasn’t — that’s a lot of money to leave sitting on the table if he were to retire this summer, which he won’t.

So you get the feeling that, y’know, this coming 2015-16 season is going to be something of a victory lap for him, and it’s well-earned. It’s also well-timed. Because the Devils are about to fall on some very difficult circumstances — that is, if you don’t think they’ve done so already — in terms of roster turnover, management shifts, and basically getting the dead weight off the roster. Elias, weirdly, might be in that mix, because he’s probably seen as a veteran who can help another team, and he might be worth some picks or prospects or something. It’ll be weird to see him in another uniform (like Brodeur-on-the-Blues weird), but that’s probably what’s going to happen.

For two damn decades, only having to face the reality of a trade once in your career means you had a pretty damn good run.

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