Forward Patrik Elias could opt for retirement rather than return to the New Jersey Devils this season.
Elias, 40, had knee surgery in May and has been rehabbing in hopes of making a return but must sign a contract before March 1 in order to be eligible to play this season. He was asked prior to the Devils' 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday if he's given himself any timetable to make a decision.
"The time is up, actually," Elias told The One Jersey Network. "I talked to [Devils general manager Ray Shero] before Christmas, I expressed how I feel physically and I honestly think I'd be capable of [coming back] physically. But it's more, for me, where I'm at mentally. It's hard to explain. When you go through injuries it leaves you with a little bit of doubt, but at the same time you start realizing 'maybe there's something more for me after hockey.' Obviously, enjoying the family and doing stuff I haven't been able to do for 25 or 30 years, maybe. Mentally, I'm just getting closer to wanting to enjoy those things.
"You kind of listen to yourself and listen to your body and your mind. If you're mind isn't into it anymore 100 percent then obviously the results won't be there. I don't want to go on the ice and play just for the sake of playing. I still want to be capable of accomplishing something [and] help the team."
Elias scored two goals with six assists in 16 games last season. He scored a goal with two assists in his last game, a 5-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, on April 9, 2016.
Elias has scored 408 goals and 617 assists (1,025 points) in 1,240 NHL regular-season games in 20 seasons, all with the Devils. He is New Jersey's all-time leader in goals, assists and points. Elias also has scored 45 goals and 80 assists in 162 Stanley Cup Playoff games while winning the Cup twice (2000, 2003).
"It's very hard after all these years going through injuries like that, for quite a while you kind of re-think everything, what's worth it, if you're still capable of competing at the highest level," Elias said. "I gotta make a decision soon, not [just] to be honest with myself, but at the same time for respect to the guys."
The Devils traded forward Vernon Fiddler to the Nashville Predators on Saturday for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.