There’s no denying that the New Jersey Devils are in a precarious situation with some of the team’s leading scorers and several other talented players entering free agency. There’s also no denying that Lou Lamoriello‘s misguided strategy of not negotiating during the season has backfired a bit, especially when the team collapsed down the stretch anyway.
What’s truly puzzling, however, is that the Devils targeted David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky before beginning contract talks with Patrik Elias. While Clarkson lead New Jersey in goals, he’s arguably little more than a glorified grinder. Zidlicky is one of the biggest defensive liabilities in the league. Elias should be the unquestioned priority of the Devils’ offseason, but for some reason they continue to wait to begin negotiations.
Elias has led the Devils in points for the past three seasons. He’s a veteran leader and has spent his whole career in New Jersey. Approaching statistics that will cement his legacy in the Hall of Fame, his number 26 is likely destined for the rafters above the Prudential Center. Aside from the nostalgic reasons, he may also be the most talented forward headed for unrestricted free agency.
After their end-of-season struggles to score goals, New Jersey’s offense is questionable at best. Beyond Ilya Kovalchuk, Elias may be the only elite offensive talent the Devils have. Clarkson probably belongs on the third line of most teams, and the rest of New Jersey’s top six is as unproven as it comes.
Simply put, the Devils cannot afford to lose Patrik Elias and need to get serious about contract talks — or another former Devils captain might skip town.