Establishing Joe Pavelski's Market Value

DENVER, CO - APRIL 24 : Goaltender Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche reacts as Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates his goal in the first period of Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Joe Pavelski may have been the most important player during the Sharks march to the 2010 Western Conference Finals.

In fact, he just might have saved San Jose's season.

With forty seconds remaining in game two, and the Sharks already down 1-0 in the series following a heartbreaking loss the night before that saw a puck careen off Rob Blake's skate past Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose entered the zone trailing by a goal and desperate to score. And while dropping the first two games at home may have not been the death knell for a team as talented as the Sharks, the recent history of a 2009 postseason loss to Anaheim would have threatened to tear apart the delicate fabric holding together the city's collective psyche.

Fortunately, Pavelski didn't let it get that far. Joe Thornton found Dany Heatley between the circles, and after Craig Anderson made a marvelous save in-tight on the Canadian sniper, Pavelski quickly jumped on the rebound and rifled the shot into the back of the net to send HP Pavilion into a frenzy. The comeback would be complete later that night with an overtime goal by Devin Setoguchi, but no score rang louder during the entire Sharks postseason than Pavelski's in the dying seconds of that game two.

As it turns out, he was just getting started.

From a game four winner against Colorado in overtime, to back to back two-goal affairs against the Detroit Red Wings that led to a 2-0 series lead the Sharks would never surrender, Pavelski ended his 2010 postseason with 9 goals, 8 assists, 17 points, a +6, and 3 game-winners. He led the team in four out of those five categories (Boyle taking the assist crown with 12), and was a monumental influence in all assets of the game.

To let him go after such a remarkable postseason would be lunacy, and by all accounts, Pavelski remains one of the most important re-signings Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson will make this offseason. Estimates have ranged from $3.0MM-$6.0MM for his services, with hypothetical roster compilations becoming more and more dependent on his compensation level with each passing day.

Allowing Pavelski to walk would be a travesty. But just how much is he worth on the open market?

In order to establish a baseline of comparison, I have compiled a sample of five other forwards who entered free agency in a similar situation as Joe Pavelski. These players signed their deals following the NHL lockout when they were in the 23-25 year old range, and will see the culmination of their contract result in unrestricted free agency. In order to fine-tune the sample even more, I have tried to select players whose contracts will likely be similar to Pavelski's in length of term, which I have estimated to be roughly five years.


Joe Pavelski Comparables

Player
Year Pos Age GP G/gm A/GM pts/gm PP TOI
PK TOI
LEngth Cap Hit
Joe Pavelski
09-10
C
25
67
0.37 0.39
0.76 3:02 2:24 N/A
N/A
-
-
-
-
-
- -
- - - -
-
Ryan Kesler
09-10
C
25
82
0.30 0.61
0.91 2:45 2:39 6 years
$5.00MM
Loui Eriksson
08-09
W
23
82
0.44 0.33 0.77 3:00 1:56 6 years
$4.26MM
Brad Boyes
07-08
C
25
82
0.52 0.27 0.79 3:54 0:05 4 years
$4.00MM
Mikko Koivu
06-07
C
23
82
0.24 0.42 0.66 3:17 1:36 4 years
$3.25MM
Derek Roy
06-07
C
23
75
0.28 0.56 0.84 2:58 2:32 6 years
$4.00MM

Pavelski is very much a Derek Roy type, underrated across the league despite some notable contributions to his teams success*. He'll log some quality time against the tougher competition opposing teams have to offer, and put up roughly 60-75 points a season in a second line role. These types of players are well worth the compensation due to their commitment to a two-way game, and are vital cogs in the machine of any team attempting to be successful both in the short and long term.

*The notion that Pavelski is underrated should probably be considered outdated due to the vast amount of media attention he received during the 2010 postseason, but pre-April this sentiment certainly held true.

It's entirely possible that Derek Roy's contract could be considered undervalued due to the increase in the upper limit since he signed his contract-- an increase $50.3MM during the first year of his deal (07-08) to the $58.0MM or so that is reportedly set to be instituted for Pavelski's first year (10-11) should be considered when making comparisons amongst these contracts. Despite playing on the wing and possessing more goal scoring ability (or at least a more tangible representation of goal scoring ability, when taking his line of 36-29 during the last two seasons into account), Loui Eriksson has put up numbers similar to Pavelski across these situations, and should serve as another barometer for assessing how much Pavelski will command this offseason.

Furthermore, players such as Nathan Horton and Jordan Staal, who were left out of this analysis due to the fact they signed their contracts in their young twenties, also provide us a baseline for Pavelski's contract due to similar skill sets. Both players come in at $4.00MM per year.

However, one must also look at the contract decisions San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson has made in respect to his restricted free agents in the same age range as Pavelski following the NHL lockout. Wilson is notoriously generous with his contracts for returning players-- Kent Huskins, Torrey Mitchell, and Matt Carle will attest to this, and to some degree, Patrick Marleau can as well. Coming off a 48 point season that saw him score 19 goals and compile a -19, Marleau was awarded a two year $6.3MM per deal that, while obviously worth the money in light of his most recent production as well as the numbers accrued in the two prior years (86 and 78 points respectively), was quite a pay increase from the $4.16MM Marleau was making before.

So how does this seemingly carefree allocation of cap resources translate to the 23-25 age range in San Jose, and most importantly, how do Pavelski's numbers compare to those who were signed before him?


Joe Pavelski Franchise Comparables

Player
Year Pos Age GP G/gm A/GM pts/gm PP TOI
PK TOI
LEngth Cap Hit
Joe Pavelski
09-10
C
25
67
0.37 0.39
0.76 3:02 2:24 N/A
N/A
-
-
-
-
-
- -
- - - -
-
Ryane Clowe
08-09
W
26
71
0.31 0.42
0.73 3:05 0:20 4 years
$3.63MM
Milan Michalek
07-08
W
23
79
0.30 0.39 0.70 3:20 0:30 6 years
$4.33MM
Joe Pavelski
07-08
C
25
82
0.23 0.26 0.49 2:19 1:01 2 years
$1.64MM
Jonathan Cheechoo
05-06
W
25
82
0.68 0.45 1.13 5:08 1:51 5 years
$3.00MM

Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe are likely the most relevant examples to the current day understanding of where Pavelski's contract will end up-- Pavelski's current deal came after his first full season in the NHL, and Cheechoo's contract, which could be considered one of the better signings that the NHL has seen in awhile* based off previous year production, is removed from being especially relevant to the current cap climate surrounding the NHL today.

*$3.00MM over five years for a player coming off a Rocket Richard season is quite an achievement, especially when one considers that came after a year in which Cheechoo scored 28 goals.

In respect to Pavelski's role on the team, it is abundantly clear he is much more vital to the success of the team than Ryane Clowe. A one-dimensional power forward who is phenomenal along the boards but struggles defensively and in transition, Clowe's compensation is the absolute minimum Pavelski would accept on the open market. In regards to Milan Michalek, Wilson was likely paying for potential when he divvied out what was the most lucrative contract in the history of the organization. The young 23 year old forward was dangerous in open ice and able to pick corners with regularity due to a quick and accurate wrist shot. Wilson invested in a player who he saw as developing into a perennial thirty goal scorer, and while his contributions to the penalty kill had not been realized yet, the groundwork was laid for him to achieve that aspect of defensive responsibility.

The question of whether or not Wilson overpaid for these two players is likely a debate that will continue to provide entertainment during the long months of August, when hockey news is at a standstill and player movement is nearly non-existent. Clowe's contract, and Michalek's to some degree, likely look worse due to the salary allocation San Jose has employed during their years with the team-- both are serviceable players with various upsides, and on a non-cap limit team, they would be considered fair wages for players of their caliber and expertise.

If that is how Wilson will approach his negotiations with Pavelski, then expecting a deal north of $5.0MM is alarmism at it's finest-- although Pavelski's postseason performance was noteworthy and of the greatest pleasure to fans across the city of San Jose, favorable shooting percentages played a large role in that run. This is not to disparage Pavelski's contributions or skill set, but is to say that a 60 point per year player nearing the end of his developmental boom is not worth that type of money, and Doug Wilson will be readily aware of that.

In conclusion, taking comparable players both within and outside of the organization into account, I would expect to see Pavelski ink something in the 5 year $4.2-$4.5MM range. His contributions to the penalty kill, locker room leadership, ability to log minutes in tough situations, and 25 goal per year potential make him deserving of this type of contract. With the future of the team in limbo as players like Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov set to enter unrestricted free agency, taking care of your homegrown talent in order to ensure the future organizational success is paramount at this juncture.

Pavelski provides you with that and more. A pleasure to watch night in night out, there's no doubt we will be seeing him in teal next season.

Hard to say I'd have it any other way.

 

Go Sharks.

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