SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Joe Pavelski could have played out the upcoming final year of his current contract, and would have been one of the most attractive targets next summer as an unrestricted free agent.
Instead, the 29-year-old forward signed a five-year, $30 million extension (that includes a limited no-trade clause) on Tuesday, cementing himself as one of the team’s cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.
And, he couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It’s always exciting when a franchise puts that responsibility on you,” Pavelski said via conference call on Tuesday. “It’s important to continue to play at a high level in that regard. It’s a position I wanted to be in, and it’s exciting to have this opportunity.”
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, who signed Logan Couture to an identical deal in June, was asked how important it was to get Pavelski’s signature on the bottom line of a new contract before the start of the 2013-14 season. Training camp begins on September 11.
“I think it was really important,” Wilson said. “He’s one of our core players, the way he plays. To me, it was just an important contract to get done, certainly on the heels of Logan’s contract, also.”
The Sharks have been a consistent contender throughout Pavelski’s seven-year tenure with the club, making the playoffs each spring. In 2013, San Jose’s late regular season surge and playoff performance showed it found an identity that was missing in the 2011-12 season and for much of the 2013 season, too. San Jose swept the Canucks in the first round of the playoffs, and fell to the Los Angeles Kings in seven hard-fought games in the second round.
Pavelski’s agent Dan Plante told CSNCalifornia.com that the potential to win a Stanley Cup with the Sharks is one of the main reasons his client agreed to stick around the Bay Area until his mid-30's.
“We’ve been right there and we’ve had that belief,” said Pavelski, who will earn $4 million in 2013-14 before the extension kicks in. “Last year is fresh on your mind, but it was one of the most believable teams I think we’ve had in the past. An extra bounce or two and we could have been there right at the end.”
Pavelski has been one of the Sharks' most consistent point producers year-to-year, putting up at least 51 points in each of the last four full seasons, and scoring 31 (16g, 15a) in the shortened 2013 campaign. He led the team in playoff scoring with 12 points (4g, 8a) in 11 games.
Still, it’s his game-to-game consistency that Pavelski would like to improve upon. The forward suffered one stretch last season in which he registered just one goal and two assists in 18 games, before tallying 14 points in the final 18 games and turning it up even more in the playoffs.
“I’ve played at a high level at times throughout my career and through stretches, and it’s about getting to that high level and maintaining it and expecting it on a nightly basis,” he said.
Among forwards, Pavelski was second in ice time in 2013, averaging nearly 19 minutes a game including power play and penalty kill responsibilities. It’s that versatility, combined with a tireless work ethic that makes Pavelski such an important piece, according to Wilson.
“He’s a hockey player,” Wilson said, before reeling off the former seventh-round draft pick’s accomplishments. “He’s a winner. He’s a great role model for many of our other players that are home grown.
“The way he plays the game, it’s not about stats, even though the stats are very, very impressive. It’s about what you do to make a difference to win a game. That’s the way he’s wired, the way we want to play, and being a great teammate I think he’s only going to get better. And, he’s pretty good already.”