NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Patrik Elias is suddenly thinking about playing an 18th season in the NHL.
Whether it’s with the New Jersey Devils remains to be seen.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils and their all-time leading scorer, Elias said that returning from a knee injury for the last three games of the regular season has forced him to reconsider his future as he heads into unrestricted free agency.
Elias would not put a timetable on making a decision after Saturday night’s 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season finale. The soon-to-be 40-year-old wants to talk to general manager Ray Shero and coach John Hynes to get their thoughts on his future.
“I want to see if there is even a chance, even a possibility of me coming back and then go from there,” Elias said.
Elias certainly isn’t going to make the $5.5 million that he earned this season, a campaign in which he played in 16 games. The last one was his best by far, scoring a goal and assisting on two others, including Kyle Palmieri‘s 30th of the season.
Palmieri, who tallied into an empty net, returned the favor with less than 16 seconds left to play, setting up Elias’ goal, his first since Nov. 28.
It led to a wild celebration at the Prudential Center with the sellout crowd, giving him a standing ovation and chanting “Patty, Patty, Patty,” something it had done through the game for the well-liked left wing.
“It was just one of those playoff goals, not clinching, that you just got into the finals, one of those big games,” Elias said. “I almost forgot how to score again, it’s been a while.”
The performance earned Elias the first star of the game, and he soaked in the scenery skating around the ice after the decision was announced.
“Yeah you have to enjoy it. It’s possible that I might not be playing,” he said. “It’s reality. You have to face that. Maybe it’s just reality that I might not be playing here. Who knows? Those are things you have to consider and I loved it. It was a fun night.”
It was like that the whole night. In the pregame skate, Elias saw his wife and two daughters in the corner of the rink. He waved and noticed they were pointing to the other end of the ice.
Elias gazed down and did a double take. His conditioning coach and a close friend were standing there with a sign and a flag after having flown in from the Czech Republic for the game.
It’s been that kind of a week for Elias, who returned to action earlier this week.
“I enjoyed those games, it gave me a lot of confidence that I can still play,” said Elias, who looked energized playing with fellow Czech Pavel Zacha, the sixth pick in last year’s draft.
“I never doubted that, it’s just the injury that you deal with takes away from your speed and hockey skills, but I am pleasantly surprised the way I felt. I am not going to lie. We’ll see where we go. Honestly, I hope this is not it. It could be.”
Palmieri enjoyed the game, too. He grew up in New Jersey watching Marty Brodeur, Scott Stevens and Elias among others.
“A couple of them are up in the rafters,” Palmieri said. “It’s up to Patty now if he is going to be back next year. If not, we’ll see him up in the rafters soon.”