Pavelski signs with Dallas Stars as free agent
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Plover native Joe Pavelski signed with the Dallas Stars as a free agent Monday, July 1, after he spent each of his 13 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) with the San Jose Sharks.
Pavelski joined the Stars on a three-year, $21 million contract that will run through the 2021-22 season.
Last season, Pavelski was named to the NHL All-Star Team for the third time in his career, and helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It was getting to that free-agent window, and once that happened, there were a lot of teams calling in,” said Pavelski in a conference call with reporters July 1. “And it was kind of always the thought that, if we were going to be leaving San Jose, we weren’t just going to go to the highest bidder, there was definitely some boxes that we wanted checked off, and one of them, we wanted to feel that the team was close to winning.
“And playing against the Stars, playing against some of their players, and the season that they had, they were a team that checked off a lot of the boxes for us,” he said. “And then we came in and we spent a couple of days there with some of the management and saw the city, and the youth rinks and the schools and the neighborhoods, and just really tried to visualize ourselves being here. And it seemed like a perfect fit for us.”
“It is not every day a player the caliber of Joe becomes available, and we’re thrilled to be able to add him to our club,” said Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill in a statement. “He is a leader in every sense of the word, and a proven goal-scorer that continues to produce at an elite level.
“In meeting with him, it is evident how much he values winning, and that mindset will mesh perfectly with our leadership group,” he said.
After leading Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) to the WIAA State Title as a junior in 2002, Pavelski spent one season with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, before he was drafted by San Jose in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Draft with the 205th overall selection, and then led Waterloo to the Clark Cup in 2004.
He played for two seasons for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, and was the leading scorer on the Badgers’ 2006 NCAA Division 1 National Championship team, before he broke into the NHL as a rookie with the Sharks in 2006-07.
Pavelski went on to make the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team in 2010 and helped the United States win the Silver Medal in Vancouver, and he was named to the U.S. Olympic team again in 2014, which was the last year the NHL allowed its players to compete in the Olympics.
With the Sharks, Pavelski was an NHL All-Star in 2016 and 2017, and again this season, when San Jose hosted the 2019 All-Star Game.
In his 13th season in the NHL in 2018-19, Pavelski led the Shanks with 38 goals, which were the second most of his career, as he ranked 14th in the league in goals, and finished with 64 points to eclipse the 60-point mark for the sixth consecutive season.
“I feel great right now,” said Pavelski, who turns 35 July 11. “I don’t know what people say their prime is, but some of my best years have been 30 to 35, and there’s no reason that number isn’t going to stretch to 35, 36 and 37.
“And I believe that,” he said.
San Jose went on to reach the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this postseason, while Pavelski suffered an injury in Game 5 of the series that caused him to miss Game 6, which the Sharks lost 5-1 to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues to fall 4-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Pavelski finished the playoffs this season with four goals and nine points in 13 games, and is tied for sixth among active players in the NHL postseason goals (48) and ranks 14th in points (100).
It was the final season of Pavelski’s five-year, $30 million contract that he signed in 2013, while the Sharks entered free agency tight against the salary cap.
“It’s been a process where, you always thought, and we’ve been there for so long, you always kind of thought we were going to be going back,” said Pavelski. “As it got closer and closer, more doubt started to happen.
“Then you go on these visits and you understand it’s getting closer, and there was always the question, it was like, ‘hey, are you guys really going to leave?’” he said.
Pavelski reportedly visited Dallas and the Tampa Bay Lightning, before he agreed to sign the three-year deal with Dallas July 1, which was the first day that NHL unrestricted free agents could sign with other teams.
Dallas went 43-32-7 this season and finished in fourth place in the Central Division during the regular season, and advanced to the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, where it was eliminated by St. Louis with a 4-3 loss in Game 7.
“The years was probably the starting factor for us, we just wanted a three-year deal, believed we earned it, and everything kind of started off of that,” said Pavelski. “Every team is built a little different and the (salary) cap is what it is, there’s some room, (or) there’s not room.
“It’s really not that big of a deal, it didn’t work out this time, you see these types of things not always set up and line up perfectly, and I think this was a case (of that),” he said. “I never got a feeling they didn’t want me, or I didn’t want them, it’s just the way things played out.”
Pavelski had been the Sharks’ captain since 2015 and ranks second in San Jose history in career goals (355), third in career points (761) and third in career assists (406).
During his 13 seasons, the Sharks reached the playoffs 12 times, and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016, when Pavelski led the NHL in playoff goals with 13 and finished third in the league with 23 points during the postseason.
“From being a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 to serving as captain of our team for the last four seasons, Joe Pavelski’s place in Sharks history is firmly cemented and he will be sorely missed,” said San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement. “Joe led by example, not only as a player but as a person, and the impact he has had on this franchise and his teammates will be felt for years to come.
“Under a (salary) cap system, these extremely difficult separations are a reality and, unfortunately, we could not find common ground on dollars and term to keep Joe in San Jose,” he said. “However, like many other players around the NHL, Joe has earned the right to become a free agent.
“We respect his decision and want to thank Joe, his wife Sarah and son, Nate, for 13 wonderful seasons,” he said. “They will always be part of the San Jose Sharks family.”
“It’s hard leaving friends there, it’s even more hard leaving your teammates, especially with the guys I played there with the whole time,” said Pavelski. “I came up in that organization, there’s guys that that’s the only organization they’ve seen, and it is tough leaving that.
“And you understand that, it’s a change, the friendship’s going to be there, some things don’t change that way,” he said. “And what an incredible time we had in San Jose.
“The organization treated us top-notch, there was never any doubts, any things that we looked back on and wished we would’ve did different,” he said. “It was a special time in our life for sure, and we’ll miss a lot of people there.”