Going into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello must have a lot on his mind. After missing the playoffs during the shortened 2013 season, it is evident that the Devils desperately need a boost in offense to improve next year. There are several ways this can be achieved: trade, free agency, and the draft, which happens to be taking place in Newark at the Prudential Center. The Devils have the ninth overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, which will hopefully add an offensively skilled prospect to an already exciting movement of young NHL players and AHL prospects in New Jersey. However, the Devils have a number of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, that have been vital to the Devils’ offense over the past few years, that they should focus on resigning. Sure, there are young up-and-comers like Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov, both of whom promise to be solid secondary scorers. There’s also David Clarkson who, despite coming into the NHL as a fighter, has recently found his scoring touch. Yet, in my mind (and my mother’s), none of these young players should be the free-agent priority of Lamoriello – it has to be 37-year-old forward Patrik Elias.
You may question why I would want the Devils to focus on such an old player when there is such young talent that the Devils also need to retain. However, I can assure you that if you were to watch a New Jersey Devils game, you would not think twice. In fact, you may be questioning which player out on the ice is the 37-year-old and which is the up-and-comer. Elias’ speed, intensity, and skill have clearly not felt the effects of time as he put up 36 points (14 goals and 22 assists) this past season in 48 games; this makes Elias the highest scoring player on the Devils. Elias is a four (almost five) time 30+ goal scorer and has exceeded 60 points eight times in his career. Elias has ranked first in points on the Devils over 50% of the time he has spent in New Jersey; he ranks 2.33 on the team, on average, in points scored. He didn’t rank in the top two on the team only four times in his 15-year career, two of which he missed at least one third of the season and the other two were the first two seasons of his career.
The fact is that Patrik Elias is ageless. He is the unrecognized Teemu Selanne of New Jersey, who has amassed 375 goals and 555 assists, for 930 points, in 1,090 regular season games. These statistics rank him first in franchise history for goals scored and points; he also holds the record for most game-winning goals with 74. Elias also has 125 points in 162 playoffs games, proving that his success includes the playoffs. There is no other free agent that demands such respect and attention by his team as Elias, who should now be rewarded for his skill, hard work, and dedication to the Devils over the course of his long and successful career. Personally, I am hoping New Jersey signs him to a four year contract averaging around $4 million per season. Elias’ expiring contract had a cap hit of $6 million. I think that if you factor in Elias’ age and hopefully his desire to save the team some money, but reward his production, Elias should command such a contract that pays him well and provides him with the security and peace-of-mind of an “until-the-end” type of contract. I sincerely hope he is re-signed, as he provides both offensive talent and an incredible veteran presence for young players.