Patrik Elias knew there were very few players who possibly could replace Ilya Kovalchuk after the star forward surprisingly retired from the New Jersey Devils.
Elias is certain his team found one: Jaromir Jagr.
Jagr has enough left in tank to help Devils
By Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider
After the departure of David Clarkson and the stunning retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils are turning to one of the most accomplished players in NHL history to fill a short-term void on the wing. READ MORE ›
"If you look at it fans-wise and PR-wise and what we needed after losing Kovy, there were maybe only three or four guys available that we could possibly get or think about getting and he's one of them," Elias told NorthJersey.com on Tuesday after the Devils announced they had signed Jagr reportedly to a one-year contract.
"I think PR-wise, I think for fans he still is a big name that has accomplished something tremendous in his life and in his career, so I'm pretty sure the fans will be excited to have him as a Devil."
Elias is excited too. He has played with Jagr, a Czech countryman, on various national teams but never expected to have the chance to do so in the NHL.
"For me, it's kind of surreal," Elias told reporter Tom Gulitti. "I don't think I ever thought about playing with him on the same team, but we're at the point in our careers, both of us, that we know our roles, we know our situation, we know our place, and I think he will be good for the team."
Their roles will be to score. Since the end of the 2011-12 season, the Devils also lost forwards Zach Parise and David Clarkson to free agency.
Elias, 37, led the Devils last season with 36 points. Jagr, 41, had one fewer splitting the season between the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins.
Elias, who signed a reported three-year contract this month to stay with the team for which he is the all-time leading scorer, said he's never played on the same line with Jagr on the Czech national team.
"We played maybe two years ago (at the world championships), we played a couple of power plays together during the tournament, but never a regular shift together," Elias said.
"I wonder as much as you guys how it's going to work out, how he's going to fit in," he also said.
A younger Elias may have been in awe of Jagr, but as a two-time Stanley Cup champion and Devils icon himself, the wing anticipates a higher comfort level.
"If you asked me 10 years ago, I'd probably give you a different answer than now," Elias said. "It still is [a thrill], but for me it's probably not as much as it might be for some younger guys. Hats off to him for what he's accomplished and everything, but I think position-wise and what I've accomplished with the team, it's a matter of being good within the system of the team ... It's to try to make the most out of it and make sure it works individually and for the team."
Jagr in his introductory remarks said it became more important to join the Devils after Kovalchuk retired earlier this month. Jagr signed a contract reportedly worth $2 million with bonuses that could push it to $4 million.
He joins free-agent forwards Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder in the Devils' new-look offense, one which Elias believes will be successful.
"Yes. With the guys that we've got, the new guys, we're going to have a more balanced team," he said, "and I think we'll be fine as a team and as an organization going forward."