Dallas Stars: Assessing How Joe Pavelski Could Fit With Stars

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 03: Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks skates with the puck against the Dallas Stars at SAP Center on April 3, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joe Pavelski
SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 03: Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks skates with the puck against the Dallas Stars at SAP Center on April 3, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joe Pavelski /

The Dallas Stars hosted free agent forward Joe Pavelski at their practice facility on Wednesday afternoon. And with the forward set to hit the market as a UFA on July 1, he seems to be an option near the top of the Stars’ list. But what could he bring to the team?

As the Dallas Stars’ 2019 Development Camp session rolls right along this week at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas, there’s a lot to keep an eye on.

From both groups practicing on two different ice surfaces in the building, to prospects meeting with fans off of the ice, to other Stars players using the ice simply for practice, there’s a lot that can be noticed during a visit to the facility.

And if you watch closely enough, you might just see Dallas GM Jim Nill walking around the complex. Whether he’s sitting in a seat in the arena to observe the prospects while they participate in drills or walking back and forth from his office to other parts of the facility, you’ll likely see him at least once or twice in a given day during development camp.

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It’s a busy time of the year for Nill. In fact, it just might be considered the busiest week of his entire offseason. That’s because in addition to watching and getting to know different prospects, he’s also making final preparations for July 1 when Free Agency opens in the NHL.

And in the upcoming edition of the Free Agency Frenzy, the Dallas Stars should be in for another intriguing run.

After coming up one goal short of a trip to the Western Conference Finals and falling to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the second round, the Stars seem to be “right there.” Their defense and goaltending turned in stellar campaigns in 2018-19, Jim Montgomery and his staff put together an excellent first season behind the bench, and the team rebounded from a slow start to not only qualify for the postseason, but win a series and transform into a legitimate threat.

But it still wasn’t enough. And so, Nill is back on the drawing board, looking for ways to improve his club so they can take the next step in 2019-20.

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  • One area that could use significant and obvious improvement is their offense, particularly when it comes to scoring. After finishing the 2018-19 season tied for 28th in the NHL in goals scored, it was made painfully obvious that the Stars needed an offensive spark to round out their top six and help take the pressure off of Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, and the rest of the Dallas back end.

    Then came along Mats Zuccarello at the trade deadline, and everything started to look better. The Stars were faster, had a legitimate top six, and were actually able to apply consistent pressure in the offensive zone. Zuccarello made the players around him better using his playmaking abilities and hockey IQ and helped push the Stars to Game 7 of the second round before they were ultimately halted.

    But now, Zuccarello is taking other offers. It’s been reported that the Stars and Zuccarello are relatively far apart while trying to negotiate an extension over the past month. And while both sides remain in contact, Zuccarello is checking the market for better offers.

    With that being said, Nill has to find another solution to help fix the team’s offensive woes.

    That’s why San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was seen at the Stars’ practice facility on Wednesday afternoon during the development camp session.

    Pavelski, 34, will be a UFA on July 1 and is currently weighing his options. After spending the first 13 years of his NHL career with the Sharks, he’s now a free agent for the first time and has spent the week visiting with certain teams while talking on the phone with others. With San Jose in a bit of a cap crunch after signing defenseman Erik Karlsson to a mega deal, bringing back a 34-year-old center may not be an achievable task for the organization (though they are staying in contact with him).

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    But with Pavelski likely on the move and meeting with Dallas and Tampa Bay this week, it seems as though the Dallas Stars could be a potential landing spot.

    Not only that, but he could be an ideal fit for the club.

    It’s no secret that the Stars struggled with scoring goals in the 2018-19 season. They averaged 2.55 goals per game and rode the success of their defense and goaltending into the 2019 playoffs. Only one player crossed the 30-goal mark (Tyler Seguin), and only two others made it past 16 (Alexander Radulov with 29, Jamie Benn with 27). Beyond that, there was a sincere drop-off in production.

    To make the problem even more clear, three of the Stars’ top seven scorers were defensemen (John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen).

    As a result, the need for scorers has become painfully apparent. Mats Zuccarello provided a fix for the Dallas Stars as he helped transform the offense into a deeper and more diverse unit that was better prepared to apply pressure and score.

    But there’s one central difference between Zuccarello and Pavelski: while Zuccarello is considered a setup guy and has only passed the 16-goal mark once in the past five seasons, Pavelski is a scorer that has averaged 34 goals per season since 2013-14. To draw a comparison, Tyler Seguin has averaged the same number of goals per season in the same timespan. The only thing separating the two is 15 more games played by Pavelski.

    Even with his 35th birthday approaching on July 11, he still managed to turn in a 38-goal, 64-point performance in 75 regular season games in 2018-19.

    The thing about Pavelski is that he brings a lot of positive qualities to the offensive side of the puck. At 5-11, 190 lb., he’s got the speed, quickness, and hockey IQ to start an offensive rush from anywhere on the ice and help sustain puck possession. He’s a strong center in the face-off dot with a 54.4 percent win rate since the 2013-14 campaign. He’s a smart player that loves to shoot the puck and possesses a dangerous shot.

    In addition to his offensive prowess, he’s also responsible in the defensive zone and can hunt the puck down when on defense. He’s finished in the Top 25 in Selke Trophy voting in four of the past six seasons and while he isn’t the biggest or most physically intimidating body in the defensive zone, he provides defensive support and isn’t afraid to get in shooting lanes and block shots.

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  • He’s a leader on and off the ice and has served as the Sharks’ captain since the 2015-16 season. At 34 years old, he’s been through 12 different playoff runs with San Jose, including an appearance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final where he played in all 24 postseason games and tallied 14 goals and 23 points.

    Being a UFA is new territory for Pavelski. He just wrapped up a five-year extension with the Sharks that he signed back in 2013. But now, he’s likely searching for the last contract of his professional career.

    That’s where the Dallas Stars could help. Considering many view Dallas as an ideal city for athletes to reside in long-term and raise their families in, it could be a good landing spot for the right-handed center. He’ll be 35 before the season begins, so it seems as though the term of a contract should linger around two or three years. With his impressive production in 2018-19, he’ll likely be looking for an AAV in the $7 million range.

    But while the Stars’ negotiations with Zuccarello could be stalling around term, Pavelski would require fewer years while likely around the same money. In addition, he would significantly bolster the Dallas offensive attack and add another goal-scoring threat to the second line. As a result, the Stars could boast a multidimensional offense for the 2019-20 campaign.

    While age is usually a significant worry for players, Pavelski continues to prove that he is sill a relevant and notable producer on the ice.

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    And if the negotiations with Zuccarello look bleak, Pavelski would be a more than satisfactory alternative option.

    That’s why Nill brought him down to Texas.