Object of UFA Affection – The Patrik Elias Story

In the weeks leading up to the opening of unrestricted free agency, a lot time is inevitably going to be spent exhausting the number of free agent possibilities that make sense for your favorite NHL team. 

It's an annual occurrence. Player A would be a great fit here or there. Player B is going to overpaid by some desperate GM. Player C could wind up being a bargain and Player D is the guy who will end up being Exhibit J, K, L, M, N, O or P in the case portraying Glen Sather as an inept GM. 
 
In Ottawa's case, we've already seen a few suggestions for players who could pique Bryan Murray's interest – new names like Bryan Bickell and David Clarkson have been suggested and retaining the likes of Andre Benoit has even been kicked around.
 
There's no question that Ottawa needs to solidify it's depth on the left wing. Guillaume Latendresse has been told he will not be back and with Milan Michalek's muddy future — in the last year of his contract and persistent knee complications — the only other natural left wingers on the roster are Cory Conacher, Colin Greening, Mike Hoffman and the benevolent Mass Kassian.
 
Factor in Michalek's uncertain health and even the staunchest of Senators fans would agree that you would be fortunate for one of these players to crack 35 to 40+ points next season. 
 
If the organization is serious about its intent to take the next step in its ascension to contender status, it has to improve this position and give itself some protection against the very real possibility that Michalek is not brought back. 
 
Management could decide to parlay a variety of its accumulated assets for some young player who can augment the current core, but if the price proves to be too expensive, the organization could decide to go another route – unrestricted free agency.
 
Given how the combination of grit and skill are always feted at this time of year, it's not surprising to see names like Bickell and Clarkson being mentioned as desirable players for teams in need of a top nine forward. 
 
While useful players, I'm not sure either player is the type that I'd like to see Bryan Murray open up the wallet for. Instead, I would love to see the organization talk to Clarkson's teammate, Patrik Elias. 
 
At 37 years of age, Elias has been a career Devil – a factor that probably helps explain why he hasn't been garnering much mainstream attention. Nevertheless, Elias is exactly the kind of player that a goal-starved Senators team could use.  
 
Over his past five seasons, he has tallied 111 goals in 346 games or 0.32 goals per game. Extrapolate that over the course of an 82 game spread, and you're looking at someone who's produced at a 26.3 goals rate during this time.
 
More importantly, despite his advanced age, Elias has maintained his productivity and avoided having consecutive seasons with diminished production.
 
Throw in the fact that he's been an exceptionally positive puck possession player over the past number of years, and becomes easy to understand why he could provide some secondary scoring and insulation against Michalek. 
 
LIke any free agent however, the ultimate questions will be: 1) will he leave New Jersey?; and 2) how much is he going to cost? 
 
To answer the first question, there have been some scant reports that Elias may have played his last game with New Jersey. Having endured a number of offseasons highlighted by Daniel Alfredsson's uncertain future in Ottawa and the tiresome 'will he or won't he retire?' narratives that act as fodder during these mundane days, you do have to wonder whether these Elias rumours are more of the same. 
 
Mind you, the Devils are at a bit of a crossroads. Zach Parise has already moved on and Martin Brodeur is entering the final year of his current contract. Having missed the playoffs last season, maybe Elias wants to weigh the business side of things with an opportunity to play for a more competitive team.
 
Coming off a seven -year contract that carried an average annual cap hit of $6 million, Elias is probably looking for a contract worth north of $5 to $5.5 million per year. And after the 39-year old Sergei Gonchar inked his deal with the Stars, this weak free agent market will probably net Elias one last big payday as well. 
 
Whether Melnyk will allow Murray to open the purse strings and pursue Elias on the open market remains to be seen, but if Elias gets there on July 5th, he's exactly the kind of talent that would benefit the Sens. Searching the scrap heap and paying another $2 million for some low risk, mid-level reward Guillaume Latendresse- like reclamation project who spends the bulk of the season eating popcorn in the Scotiabank Place pressbox, isn't going to cut it.
 
Perhaps more importantly, he can function as a productive placeholder that allows the Senators to hold onto their bevy of prospects. If all it's going to cost is money, you could do much worse than Patrik Elias. 
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