SAN JOSE – To say that Joe Pavelski was a key figure in the Sharks’ 2019 playoff run is probably an understatement. Through gruesome injuries and difficult odds, the captain’s presence proved to be something that fueled San Jose’s 20-game playoff ride.
After everything that happened, it's almost hard to fathom that he may not be a Shark next season. But Pavelski, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, doesn’t seem too worried about that.
“I’ve got a pretty strong belief system that I’ll be back here,” Pavelski said last week when players met with the press one final time before the summer. “It’s just things have to work themselves out along the way.”
Throughout the regular season, there were questions as to why Pavelski and the Sharks hadn’t put together a deal to keep him in San Jose. Now the Sharks have several questions to answer with a handful of players hitting free agency at the same time, including Joe Thornton and Erik Karlsson in addition to Pavelski.
“It’s nothing I’m too worried about,” Pavelski continued. “My mindset really doesn’t change. I know where I’m at as a player, and physically right now. So I’ll get a little rest. Need to have a good summer, it’s like anything, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming in. My mindset doesn’t really change. You go back and you try to add different layers throughout the summer and all to prepare you to have a good season and have a shot at the end.”
Despite the injuries he sustained late in the regular season and in the postseason, Pavelski enters the offseason having put an impressive 2018-19 campaign together. He tallied 38 goals in 75 regular season games, the most he’d scored since the 2015-16 season. (He scored 22 goals last season.) When asked about the uptick in his game, No. 8 contributed his success to his overall health heading into the season.
“Obviously every year is a little different,” he said. “But it was nice to see it happen again because the other years I had little injuries along the way that maybe didn’t allow me to do certain things, but there was never a thought that I couldn’t do that again or it was going the other way.”
When Pavelski did get injured over this season, it didn’t just impact his own game – it impacted the entire team. The Sharks went 1-5-1 at the end of the regular season when Pavelski missed seven games with a lower-body injury (a knee injury that was aggravated in Game 5 of the Western Conference final). His absence was felt again when he missed the first six games in the second round and San Jose needed another offensive weapon to battle the speedy and skilled Colorado Avalanche. Even with the depth the Sharks had on offense this past season, it was always apparent when Pavelski wasn’t out there.
There’s no denying it will be a big change if Pavelski ends up playing somewhere else next season after spending his entire career in teal. Now, it’s just a matter of what the Sharks are looking to do with multiple key players hitting free agency who are deserving of big contracts.
“It’s the nature of the business of a cap system,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the media. “When you want to have good hockey teams you have good players who have matriculated up and are going to get paid well, that’s the decisions you have to make. We’ll get to those things soon enough. I guess it’s a good problem and a bad problem. Good is you have good players who are going to get compensated well. You want players to want to be here.”
“I know I’m going to be playing hockey next year, hopefully it’s going to be here,” Pavelski said. “We love it here. I think something will happen, who really knows, but coming off a lot of emotions coming through the playoffs and that round, we’ll sit down and take a look at what will happen here. We’re going to be alright I think regardless.”