Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski Excited For Next Step, Playing With Stars

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 13: San Jose Sharks Center Joe Pavelski (8) takes the ice before the National Hockey League game between the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks on December 13, 2018 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 13: San Jose Sharks Center Joe Pavelski (8) takes the ice before the National Hockey League game between the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks on December 13, 2018 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Dallas Stars needed scoring during the 2018-19 regular season, and they added it with the signing of Joe Pavelski on July 1. The veteran forward brings offensive firepower, leadership, and a desire to win to a Dallas locker room that seems ready to take the next step.

While it was the first significant Dallas Stars rumor to gain traction during the UFA interview period, it wasn’t the first confirmed signing on July 1. Even so, the Stars eventually confirmed the reports around lunchtime on Monday by announcing the signing of UFA forward Joe Pavelski.

Pavelski’s contract is for three years and carries an AAV of $7 million, with a full no-trade clause attached to the first two years and a modified NTC on the final year (as a backup plan for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft).

After the San Jose Sharks were forced into a cap crunch following the long-term extension of defenseman Erik Karlsson in June, Pavelski’s name quickly became a potential target on the UFA market. And while a handful of teams called and made pitches to him during the interview period, he only visited two clubs. One of them was the Dallas Stars.

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“They were one of the couple of teams that we visited and talked to and that’s how one of the visits started with them,” said Pavelski shortly after the contract was announced. “Then we came in and we spent a couple of days there with some of the management, saw the city, the youth rinks, the schools, and the neighborhoods and just really tried to visualize ourselves being here. It seemed like a perfect fit for us.”

Pavelski got the chance to meet with GM Jim Nill and head coach Jim Montgomery and was also given a tour of Dallas (which included a stop at Jamie Benn’s house for a chat). Considering Pavelski will be 35 when the 2019-20 season begins, this could end up being the final contract of his NHL career, so a good post-career living situation was a key for him and his family.

“We played there enough, so I know the game rink and what that’s like and there’s a great atmosphere there,” Pavelski said. “The visit was our first time, so we wanted to experience it and see what the town had a little bit more and where guys live. You don’t do a lot of that when you’re a visiting team coming in, so we went there and saw what the practice rink looked like.

“We kind of got a feel for the daily schedule, spent a little bit of time with the coaches, and we just got that feel. There’s definitely something to be said about that and I’m glad we did that. We were able to get a good feel for the city and see how far it is to the practice rink, how far it is to the game rink, those types of things.”

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With the signing, the Dallas Stars are adding a boost to one of their greatest flaws during the 2018-19 season: scoring. The Stars finished tied for 28th among NHL teams in scoring with an average of 2.55 goals per game and relied on their defense and goaltending to boost them into the postseason. The top six on offense was inconsistent and changed constantly as Jim Montgomery looked for a solution, but nothing long-term ever panned out. That was until they traded for Mats Zuccarello at the NHL Trade Deadline.

But after serving as a temporary fix, Zuccarello and the Stars couldn’t agree on a contract and extension and he signed with the Minnesota Wild on Monday. With that, Dallas needed a veteran forward to bolster their top six. Pavelski should provide that punch.

In the 2018-19 season, Pavelski scored 38 goals and tallied 64 points. In the past five seasons, he’s averaged 32.8 goals. He’s a veteran player that can win face-offs (he owns a career win percentage of 55.0 percent in the dot), play all three positions on offense, contribute on the power play and penalty kill, and still skate upwards of 19 minutes per game. He’s a great net-front presence that excels in getting his stick free and deflecting pucks, which should work well with a Dallas defensive corps that is known for being offensively-inclined and firing shots from the blue line.

In addition, Pavelski brings leadership and experience to a Dallas Stars dressing room that could always use it. Of his 13 seasons in the league, Pavelski has only missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs one time and has competed in the Stanley Cup Final. Combining that leadership with his skills should give the Stars a good boost.

"“Accountability, speaking up when the room or team needs it, grabbing guys as a big brother but also maybe punching guys in the stomach sometimes when they need to be punched, that’s what I think they’re going to provide. They came here to win, so I don’t think they’re going to waste any time trying to assert themselves as leaders.” – Jim Montgomery on the leadership qualities Pavelski and Corey Perry bring to the team"

With Pavelski, the Stars have an offensive power that can slot anywhere in their top six. He can help boost the power play while contributing on the penalty kill when needed and should help round the Dallas offense into a multi-line threat.

In the past few days, there have been questions raised about his age and health (as one might expect for a soon-to-be 35-year-old) and whether he’s due for a regression or not, but there doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern with Pavelski or management.

“I feel great right now,” Pavelski said. “I don’t know what people say their prime is, but some of my best years have been 30-35. There’s no reason that number isn’t going to stretch to 35, 36, and 37 and I believe that. The one knock on me has always been my skating and that I haven’t been as fast as the other guys, but I’ve never felt out of place out there and I’ve always been able to get it done. I’ve been at this level for a long time and I don’t see it going down.”

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  • This move brings a wave of change for both sides. For the Stars, they are adding a veteran scorer that plays the game the right way and continues to impress both on the ice and on the stat sheet, even at the age of 34. Signing him to a three-year deal further rounds out their offensive attack and could be what helps them take the next step.

    For Pavelski, he’s leaving the only NHL franchise he has known and is doing so towards the end of his career.

    “I don’t know what the feeling is,” Pavelski said when asked about leaving San Jose. “It’s been a process where you always thought, since we’ve been there for so long, you always thought you were going back. But as we 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 seems like it was just getting more and more on our side. It was gradual and it’s still going to feel different right away, but it’s slowly gotten a little easier.”

    And while he, the Sharks’ social media pages, and even San Jose GM Doug Wilson shared their thoughts and memories about Pavelski’s time with the organization on Monday, he’s ready to take the next step and ultimately compete for the Stanley Cup.

    “It’ll never fully go away, I’m sure,” Pavelski said. “But now that we’re here, you can see what’s ahead of us, you can really see yourself fitting in their locker room, spending time with their guys, and getting to know everybody. It’s something that you can sense is coming and we’re excited for it.”

    The Dallas Stars took to the free agent market and made a flurry of moves on July 1. The biggest of those was landing Pavelski, and they are expecting it to provide a sizable payoff. And when you look at his track record and combine it with his experience, the potential is there for the forward to be everything that the Stars needed.

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    “I think I’m going to fit in just fine,” Pavelski added. “I talked to [Ben] Bishop, talked to Jamie [Benn], and texted [Tyler] Seguin a little bit. I feel good talking to the coaches about what it’s like there. They sound like a great group of guys that really want to win right now and guys that want to prove something. They’re coming off of a good year where they thought they had a chance to beat St. Louis and came up a little bit short. It’s something that I feel like I can add a lot to and hopefully we can take another step next year.”