Joe Pavelski reportedly is taking advantage of the NHL's free-agent meeting period.
The Sharks captain, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, met with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.
Hearing UFA Joe Pavelski was visiting in Dallas with the Stars today. As I wrote Monday, the Stars among the team with serious interest in the 38-goal star forward— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 26, 2019
Pavelski, 38, scored 38 goals with San Jose last season. That total would have led Dallas, too, which lacked scoring up front behind its top trio of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn. Those three were the only Stars to score at least 20 goals, and 18 other teams exceeded that total.
The Stars have just under $10.96 million in salary-cap space, according to Cap Friendly, and that would be enough to bring in Pavelski. The Sharks have more space ($14.8 million), but San Jose also has just seven forwards under contract who finished the season in the NHL.
Dallas was my one win away from eliminating the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the second round, but it blew a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Given the aforementioned scoring depth, or lack thereof, Pavelski would fill a hole on the Stars' roster.
Such a move would weaken the Sharks and strengthen a possible rival, as the Stars then would have a case to enter the Western Conference's elite. It wouldn't necessarily result in a revenge playoff series for Pavelski, as San Jose and Dallas couldn't face off until the Western Conference final -- unless one of the teams finished in the other's divisional playoff bracket as a wild card.
Pavelski reportedly isn't limiting his options to the Western Conference, however. He will meet with the Tampa Bay Lightning next, according to LeBrun and The Athletic's Kevin Kurz.
Further to @PierreVLeBrun report that Joe Pavelski was visiting Dallas today, I’m told he’ll be meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning next— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) June 26, 2019
In fact Pavelski after meeting with the Stars this morning is already in Tampa tonight meeting with the Lightning. There’s potential for a third team visit, I don’t know which team. Plus he’s talked with several teams on the phone this week https://t.co/lvSwbEO3RD— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 27, 2019
The Lightning ran away with the President's Trophy in a 128-point season but was swept out of the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Pavelski's presence would provide Tampa Bay a proven playoff performer, although the Lightning faces a tighter salary-cap crunch than the Sharks.
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Tampa Bay has $10.6 million in cap space after dealing J.T. Miller and will have more when it officially places Ryan Callahan on long-term injured reserve, but the Lightning still needs to lock up restricted free agent Brayden Point this summer and has Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy set to become an RFA next summer. It's difficult to see where Pavelski would fit into that equation, but he unquestionably would make the NHL's rich even richer.
Pavelski did not shut the door on returning to the Sharks in an interview earlier this week. These reports make it clear he hasn't shut the door on leaving, either.