Patrik Elias has spent his entire career in New Jersey.
He’s won two Stanley Cups, been a captain and an alternate.
His coach says he’s a Hall of Famer and his goalie, Martin Brodeur, says he “belongs” in New Jersey.
All that said, Elias isn’t sure he’ll be a Devil after this season.
“It’s special for me to play for one team,” he told the New York Times this week. “It would be special to play here my whole career.
“But I understand the business side.”
Elias, 37, is in the final season of a seven-year, $42 million deal ($6 million average annual cap hit) signed in 2006.
His problem, as it is with every impending UFA from New Jersey, is GM Lou Lamoriello’s preferred negotiating style — which is essentially this:
“No talks while we’re playing, get down to brass tacks when the season is done.”
It’s LouLam’s tried and true method, one that came under scrutiny last season after the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup finals.
Captain Zach Parise left to join Minnesota, and Brodeur flirted with the idea of leaving before agreeing to a two-year deal.
Elias knows he has to play Lamoriello’s game, even if he’s more than willing to listen to offers now.
“We’ve negotiated with Lou before,” he said. “We know that is not the way he approaches it.”
So, what might the future have in store?
A versatile forward that can play center or wing, Elias is having yet another solid statistical campaign (31 points in 42 games) and continues to produce at a high level.
He projects to enter free agency as one of the best veteran forwards available, along with Jarome Iginla, Mike Ribeiro, Pascal Dupuis, Michael Ryder, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr.
It appears the X-Factor will be what Lamoriello and the Devils are comfortable paying.
They currently have 15 players under contract for next season and roughly $25 million to work with — but that assumes they spend to the cap, which they aren’t currently (approximately $11 million under this season).
Lamoriello also has four key RFAs to negotiate with — Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov and Matt D’Agostini — and some big UFAs as well: David Clarkson, Marek Zidlicky, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Dainus Zubrus.
As per usual, Lamoriello wasn’t offering any insight as to what he plans to do with Elias.
“He is a player who is unique in this game,” Lamoriello said. “He is a player who can play in all situations at key times.”