How much is Joe Pavelski worth?

Ezra Shaw

In light of Dustin Brown's recent contract extension with the Los Angeles Kings, what would the Sharks have to pay Joe Pavelski to keep him around past this coming season?

Los Angeles signing Dustin Brown to an eight-year contract extension carrying an annual cap hit somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.75 million touched off a bit of a discussion about what that deal means for Brown's Olympic teammate and Sharks center Joe Pavelski. As you'll recall, Pavelski is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer just as Brown was prior to coming to terms with the Kings. Doug Wilson mentioned last week that contract negotiations between the Sharks and the Pavelski camp began around the same time as the team's discussions with Logan Couture who signed a 5-year, $30 million extension earlier in the offseason. According to a recent report from Kevin Kurz, things haven't moved quite as swiftly with Pavelski as they did with the Sharks' younger two-way center:

The Sharks and Joe Pavelski are currently discussing a contract extension for the 29-year-old forward, but nothing is imminent, Pavelski’s agent Dan Plante indicated to CSNCalifornia.com.

"Doug [Wilson] and I have spoken but haven't really gotten deep in discussions. More on philosophy but we have spoken a lot," Plante said via text message.

The two sides were expected to meet in Chicago in the near future according to Wilson, but now those meetings aren’t expected to take place due to the "timing of things." Still, "we will get something figured out I am sure," Plante said.

So what's taking so long? It's impossible to know for sure but it doesn't hurt to speculate that the absurd amount of money thrown at lesser players than Pavelski this offseason has Captain America and his agent (who I guess is Bucky Barnes in the extended metaphor that is Joe Pavelski's life) salivating. To both illustrate the point and attempt to figure out what kind of money Pavelski is looking for on his new deal, I compiled a list of a few players who have signed long-term (5 years or more) contracts comprised strictly by UFA years since the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement was ratified. Not all of them are perfect comparables for Pavelski so in addition to their contract details I also provided some broad-brush indicators of these players' performances since the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. Included are their average time on ice per game over that span, their overall point total per 82 games, their even-strength point total per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time and their zonestart-adjusted Corsi%, which is just a fancy name for the proportion of even-strength shot attempts their team earned while that player was on the ice, adjusted for how often that player's shifts began in the offensive zone.

Player Age Years Cap Hit ATOI Points/82 5v5 Points/60 ZS-Adj. Corsi%
Corey Perry 28 8 $8.63mil 21:15 77 1.89 50.8%
Ryan Getzlaf 28 8 $8.25mil 21:21 77 1.82 51.0%
Alexander Semin 29 5 $7.00mil 18:13 67 2.37 52.3%
Patrice Bergeron 28 8 $6.50mil 18:27 62 2.23 58.1%
Dustin Brown 29 8 $5.75mil 19:23 55 1.61 55.5%
Travis Zajac 28 8 $5.75mil 19:26 40 1.35 53.4%
Nathan Horton 28 7 $5.30mil 16:20 52 2.22 55.8%
David Clarkson 29 7 $5.25mil 15:34 34 1.28 54.1%
Valtteri Filppula 29 5 $5.00mil 17:35 52 2.10 52.7%
Joe Pavelski 29 ? ? 19:51 64 1.80 55.3%

I was initially hesitant to even include players like Getzlaf or Perry on this list but at least by the numbers here, which admittedly lack important bits of context, the comparison isn't outrageous. The Anaheim forwards outscore Pavelski by a healthy margin in terms of raw point totals but all three score at an essentially identical rate at even-strength with Pavelski providing substantially more defensive value via his superior possession numbers. But I digress. No one, least of all Pavelski's representation, is arguing he's worth upwards of $8 million a season. The best comparables on this list appear to be Brown, Bergeron and Zajac. All three signed eight-year deals, which the Sharks are eligible to do with Pavelski since they currently have him under contract. While I don't think Pavelski is as good as Bergeron, he also isn't as far behind the Bruins' best forward as some may believe and it strikes me as an easy case to make that he's closer in value to Bergeron than he is to either Brown or Zajac. So it wouldn't surprise me if the Pavelski camp is looking for something upwards of $6 million a year for the maximum eight.

Pavelski is the Swiss Army knife in the Sharks' arsenal. He's capable of playing any position on any of the top three lines at even-strength, has a proven ability to both carry lesser linemates and perfectly complement the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, plays a significant role on both special teams units and is one of the best two-way players in the league. He's a rare commodity and one that will neither be cheap nor easily replaced. There's always a ton of risk associated with signing any NHL player through the age of 37, especially at this price tag, but with the cap projected to skyrocket, nearly every significant Sharks contract coming off the books next July, and the likelihood that Pavelski will age more gracefully than your average NHLer given that his game has never really been about raw talent or physical strength, I think it's a risk worth taking.

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