By Allan Muir
I think we're mostly past the point of being staggered by the numbers anymore, so hearing that the San Jose Sharks extended center Joe Pavelski this morning for five years and $30 million shouldn't lead to the sort of indignation that'll raise anyone's blood pressure.
Yeah, it's stupid money, and you can look around the league and find deals that look like rock bottom bargains compared to this one (John Tavares may be calling Pavelski to borrow lunch money). But the truth is if Pavelski had gone to free agency next summer, some other team would have given him the same $6 million a year. Maybe more. And maybe for a longer term. There's always going to be a market for a versatile two-way pivot.
And if Pavelski is anything, it's versatile. Brian Burke called him the Swiss Army knife of the U.S. Olympic team back in 2010, the sort of player who could be trusted with any role and in any situation. He can make plays and he can finish -- he has 47 goals over the past two seasons, tied with Patrick Marleau for the second most on the Sharks. He was the forward on whom coach Todd McLellan leaned most heavily during the playoffs, averaging 21:12 of ice time per game. Pavelski has scored 39 points in his last 49 playoff games with a team that's notorious for coming up small in the postseason. Most important, he plays heavy minutes against the toughest competition. He's basically Patrice Bergeron West.
If you're going to move forward with a guy, then Pavelski is a pretty safe bet.
That's not to say there aren't risks. He's 29 (though he seems younger than that, doesn't he?), and that's an age by which most forwards are starting to slide out of their prime. So maybe the contract starts to look a bit bloated by year five or six. But he's been underpaid the past couple of years with a $4 million cap hit, so it all evens out.
But more important than the cap hit is what it all means. This deal also ensures that Pavelski and Logan Couture, who signed on for the same term and cap hit earlier this summer, will be there in San Jose to bridge the team past the Marleau/Joe Thornton generation. Both of those veterans are unrestricted free agents next summer and it is possible that neither will be back in 2014-15. And if they are, they'll both be on shorter term, smaller money contracts. And that's why this deal is symbolic as much as anything. The old guard may stick around, but this isn't their team anymore. The Sharks will be built around the talents of Couture and Pavelski for the next six years, two players whose heart and compete levels have never been questioned. And the Sharks should be better for it.