The San Jose Sharks let then captain of four years and 34-year-old center Joe Pavelski walk this past offseason. I’m here to say that this was the right decision.
Pavelski was drafted by the Sharks in the seventh round (205th overall) in 2003 and fought his way through the ranks of the team to eventually being named the team’s ninth-ever captain in October of 2015.
In his 13 years with the Sharks, Pavelski suited up for 963 games and scored a total of 761 points (355 goals, 406 assists). In his last season (2018-19) with the Sharks, Pavs played in 75 games and scored 64 points (38 goals, 26 assists).
Pavelski would go on to sign a three-year, $21 million ($7 million AAV) with the Dallas Stars this past offseason — a $1 million raise from his most recent contract with the Sharks.
Although he was worthy of an extension with the Sharks after his five-year, $24 million ($6 million AAV), the team ultimately decided that his asking price was just too high.
If Pavelski’s asking price was the $7 million AAV he got from the Stars, this decision by the Sharks to let Pavelski walk was the right one.
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Why it was the right decision
1. Long-term extension for Timo Meier
The Sharks had a decision to make this offseason — sign soon-to-be 23-year-old restricted free agent right wing Timo Meier to a long-term contract or re-sign an aging Pavelski.
Yes, Pavelski has been one of the faces of the Sharks for the past 13 years. However, Meier just had a breakout season scoring 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games.
If the Sharks decided to sign Pavelski over Meier, they might’ve ended up trading Meier due to him holding out because he didn’t want to play on arbitration salary or he couldn’t leave via offer sheet with San Jose most likely unable to match the price.
Ultimately, the Sharks went with the younger Meier signing him to a four-year, $24 million ($6 million AAV) deal. $1 million in AAV less than what Pavelski got, and for an arguably better, younger player.
2. Pavelski’s offensive production dropped… a lot
After signing Pavelski to a three-year deal with an AAV of $7 million, the Stars were looking to get a player that could put up 60+ points. Spoiler alert: they didn’t get that.
Pavelski only scored 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 67 games this season — on pace for 80 games and just 37 points. Definitely not worth $7 million.
Now I know the Stars were a defense-first type of team this year and many of their star players regressed offensively, but not by 25 to 30 points.d Tyler Seguin was still on pace for at least 60 points and Jamie Benn was still on pace for around 46 points.
So far, Pavelski’s new contract is looking worth it. Maybe he can have a bounce-back year next season.
3. Meier had a solid year
Although Meier didn’t have the amazing season he was expected to have, it was still a good year. He was expected to score at least 60 points, but in 70 games has just 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists).
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This doesn’t seem like it’s that good, but when you do the math, Meier is on pace for around 58 points with a full season. If he was able to get hot for a few games, he could easily be around his 66 points from last season.
Although Meier didn’t repeat his amount of success that he had last season, his contract is still a good deal. A 58-point pace is worth $6 million.
Overall, Pavelski is aging and declining. With the Sharks struggles on defense this season, I doubt holding on to Pavelski would’ve made them a playoff team this year.
Furthermore, San Jose couldn’t afford to give another multi-year contract with an AAV greater than $4 million to another player older than 32-years-old. They already have two in defensemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic — defenseman Erik Karlsson will soon be one as well.
The Sharks were right to go with the younger player who just had a breakout season. If they wish to be relevant again sooner, they need to get younger. This was the first step in the right direction.