Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of NHL training camp.
Name/Position: Joe Pavelski, center/left wing
Salary: $6 million
Contract status: Signed through 2018-2019 ($6 million cap hit)
2013-14 year in review: From an individual perspective, it was a season to remember for Joe Pavelski. The Sharks’ fan favorite award winner finished third in the league with a career-high 41 goals, becoming just the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 40-goal plateau, and was the team’s leading scorer with 79 points (tied for eighth in the NHL). Pavelski even finished seventh in the NHL for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, ahead of guys like Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews.
The Wisconsin native made his second career Olympic appearance, centering Team USA’s best line with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel as his wingers, and tallying five points (1g, 5a) in six games for the Americans. In the playoffs, Pavelski posted two goals and four assists in the seven-game series with Los Angeles.
The Sharks’ 2013-14 player of the year, Pavelski is now fourth in franchise scoring with 415 points, and should pass Owen Nolan (451 points) for third place fairly soon. A five-year, $30 million contract with a limited no-trade clause kicks in this season.
2014-15 outlook: Pavelski was a focal point of the Sharks down the stretch and into the playoffs as much for his position as his on-ice contributions. Playing as a left wing on Joe Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl got hurt, Pavelski thrived for months, yet many argued he would be better off centering the Sharks’ third line to balance out the attack against a deep Kings club.
It’s difficult to predict where he’ll start the new season, considering his prior success with Thornton and the fact that the Sharks have some holes at wing with Brent Burns moving back to the blue line and Raffi Torres out for at least half of the year. Still, Pavelski should be able produce no matter where he plays.
Another 40-goal season could be a stretch, especially if he ends up as the third line center again, but Pavelski is as valuable a player on the Sharks’ roster as anyone thanks to his two-way play and ability to skate in all situations. Thankfully for the Sharks, he’s managed to stay healthy and hasn’t missed a game in three seasons, although he did require offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
There’s a very good chance that Pavelski will eventually be named as the next Sharks captain, too. Now that Thornton is no longer wearing the C, the Sharks may enter the season without anyone acting as captain, but Pavelski is still the best bet to have the letter stitched to his sweater at some point.
He’s a good choice, too. Pavelski is the perfect example of a guy who fought long odds to break into the league after he fell to the seventh round of the draft, and his work ethic on and off the ice is a great example to any young professional trying to make his way into the league. When it comes to team-first guys that you want next to you in battle, there are few better than Joe Pavelski.