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Patrik Elias of Devils announces retirement from NHL

No. 26 to be retired next season for New Jersey's all-time leading scorer

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Patrik Elias announced Friday he is retiring as an NHL player after 20 seasons, all with the New Jersey Devils.

The forward will skate with the Devils in warmups prior to their final home game of the season, April 8 against the New York Islanders.

"I'm good with it," Elias said. "I'm fortunate enough that ownership and the whole organization and everybody and the coaches and the guys gave me the time and the opportunity to come to the decision on my own time. That's just so important because I cannot imagine how hard it is for some guys when their careers end overnight. That's got to be unbelievably tough."

Elias, who will turn 41 on April 13, retires as the Devils leader in goals (408), assists (617), points (1,025), power-play goals (113), power-play points (333) and game-winning goals (80). The two-time Stanley Cup winner (2000, 2003) is first in Devils history in playoff goals (45), assists (80), points (125), power-play goals (21) and power-play points (52), and is tied for the most game-winning goals (six) with Scott Stevens, Petr Sykora, Claude Lemieux and Jamie Langenbrunner.

"Without question, in my opinion, he is one of the best players to ever play the game," Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello, who was GM of the Devils from 1997-2005, told NHL Network. "He was what you call a complete player. There's very few players that had the abilities and talents of Patrik. He's an all-situations player and has been throughout his career, where you could use him 5-on-5, offensively and defensively depending on what the needs were.

"At the end of a game you wanted him on the ice whether you were up a goal or down a goal. In a shorthanded situation, you wanted him out there whether you were down one player or two players. He could adapt to any situation. He was born with the ability to have hockey sense at the highest level. He's up there with the best of players who have ever played the game."

The Devils announced that Elias' No. 26 will be retired prior to a home game next season. It will join Stevens' No. 4, Daneyko's No. 3, Scott Niedermayer's No. 27 and Martin Brodeur's No. 30 in the Prudential Center rafters.

Tweet from @MartinBrodeur: Congratulations to my long time teammate and friend Patrik Elias on his Retirement. Can���t wait to see #26 joining 4,3,27,30 soon!

Elias has not played since April 9, when he had a goal and two assists in last season's finale, a 5-1 win against the Maple Leafs. He hoped to return for another season but needed to have cartilage replacement surgery on his right knee May 11. It was the second surgery on the knee in four months. 

Although he was not under contract, Elias resumed skating in September. He took a short break to go home to the Czech Republic for Christmas and resumed skating in January. He was making progress but stopped in early February.

Video: Ken Daneyko talks #PattysLastLap with Patrik Elias

"The reason was I wasn't sure if I would be able to (play) physically and, second of all, I probably wouldn't be able to play to the level I wanted to," he said. "I enjoyed being out there, I enjoyed going through practice and doing the work itself, but [I] kind of didn't see myself anymore going to the morning skates and evening games and traveling and all that.

"And once you don't have it in your heart and start doubting if you do have it or not, I think that's the time to sit back and just be honest [and ask yourself] if it's worth it."

Elias made his final decision after talking with Devils general manager Ray Shero after the NHL Trade Deadline on March 1.

"I started having my mind on something else, some other things I wanted to do," Elias said. "So it was time."

He didn't completely rule out playing in the Czech Republic at some point.

"I'm done in the NHL. Let's put it that way," he said. "I'm not planning on playing next year somewhere else, but I'm going to still go on the ice whether it's with friends or a junior team or something else because I like it. I like the activity and I like going out there."

Elias said he and Shero discussed briefly the possibility of working for the Devils, but he'll probably initially take a step back and spend some time with his wife, Petra, and daughters, Sophia, 6, and Kaila, 3. That might involve moving back to the Czech Republic.

Elias, the Devils' second-round pick (No. 51) in the 1994 NHL Draft, said he's proud to have spent his entire career with New Jersey. He played 1,240 games, third in Devils history behind Daneyko (1,283) and Brodeur (1,259).

"I made a couple of decisions based on loyalty staying here and I'm proud of it," he said. "I'm proud of playing for one team, one organization."

Elias won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2000, setting up Jason Arnott's winning goal in the second overtime of Game 6 of the Final against the Dallas Stars. Elias also won the Stanley Cup in 2003 and played in the Final in 2001 and 2012.

Tweet from @NJDevils: Patty���s changed his look over the years, but never changed his #NJDevils �� and ������. #PattysLastLap

Elias, who made his NHL debut Dec. 7, 1995, represented the Devils at the NHL All-Star Game in 2000, 2002, 2011 and 2015. He was voted a First-Team All-Star in 2000-01 after he finished third in the League with 96 points and tied for 10th with 40 goals.

Elias called the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, when the Devils went to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals, "probably the best two years of my career." His best game was Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Final against the Philadelphia Flyers when he scored twice in a 2-1 victory, "just because of the importance of the games and the goals, no question."

Elias said his backhand feed to Arnott on the Cup-winning goal is remembered most "just because it worked out," but his favorite assist might have been a kick pass to Langenbrunner during a 6-1 win in Game 1 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.

"I had six points that game (two goals, four assists), which was unbelievable, and I kind of kicked the puck like a soccer play to Jamie," he said. "To me, that was one of the best assists I had."

The memory of his final game against the Maple Leafs last season, with the fans chanting his name at Prudential Center, is also one of his fondest.

"That game kind of summed it up," Elias said. "I just loved being out there and had fun. That game, even being almost 40 at the time, I just enjoyed the moment."

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