Devil for life? Elias signs three-year, $16.5 million deal with New Jersey

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One of the most important players in Devils franchise history is sticking around for at least three more seasons.

On Thursday, New Jersey announced it had reached a contract extension with Patrik Elias, ensuring the 16-year veteran — who’s spent his entire career with the Devils — would remain with the club.

“To Lou, all my teammates and Devils fans, I’m excited to sign a new contract and be back with New Jersey,” Elias said in a statement. “This year marks my 17th year with the Devils and it’s very special to be a member of one organization for my entire career.”

The deal is for $16.5 million, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet. It carries an average annual cap hit of $5.5 million — slightly down from the $6 million hit from Elias’ previous deal.

(NorthJersey.com’s Tom Gulitti confirms Elias has a full no-movement clause, just like his last deal.)

Elias, 37, is the club’s longest-tenured skater (Marty Brodeur is the longest-tenured player) and holds the franchise record for most points in a season and career game-winning goals.

He’s coming off a solid 2013 campaign — 36 points in 48 games, 18:43 TOI average — but had concerns about re-upping in New Jersey given his seven-year, $42 million deal was set to expire tomorrow.

“It’s special for me to play for one team,” he told the New York Times in mid-April. “It would be special to play here my whole career.

“But I understand the business side.”

Both Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Elias wanted to keep negotiations silent — there was a gag order in effect throughout contract talks — but it was clear both organization and player wanted to continue the relationship.

The Devils hold Elias in high esteem. In February, head coach Peter DeBoer said he felt the Czech forward was a Hall of Famer.

“I don’t think there is any doubt he’s a Hall of Fame player,” DeBoer told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “It’s a great luxury to have him on the ice and in the dressing room. He thinks like a coach and he has a world-class player’s skills.

“When you’re building a hockey player, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

As for the financials…

With the move, the Devils now have 19 players signed for next season with around $12 million left under the salary cap.

There is still plenty of work to be done. New deals are still required for RFA forwards Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson, and the future of UFAs David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky remains cloudy at best.