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2018-19 Season Review: Was this Joe Pavelski’s swan song in teal?

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In the final year of his contract, the Captain had a year to remember.

St Louis Blues v San Jose Sharks - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The big storyline for Joe Pavelski coming into the 2018-19 season was that it was the final year of his five-year, $30 million contract that he had signed in the 2014 off-season. With the acquisition of Erik Karlsson, who will certainly earn a hefty contract this summer, the uncertainty of Pavelski’s status with the San Jose Sharks only grew. But as the talk about free agency went on, the captain was able to tune out the noise and bring goal-scoring that he hadn’t matched since the 2015-16 season.

Joe Pavelski player card Getty Images/Fear the Fin illustration by JD Young

The 34-year-old scored 38 goals this season, the second-most goals he’s scored in one season in his career, having also scored 38 goals in the 2015-16 campaign. Of those 38 goals, six of them were game-winning goals. He finished fifth overall in points on the Sharks for the season. He also put up 1.74 primary points per 60 minutes, fourth overall on the Sharks, and created 57.95 expected goals in 5-on-5 play, third best on the Sharks and a career-high in expected goals.

Despite an injury-plagued postseason, Pavelski still made his presence known in the Sharks’ Stanley Cup run. He scored four goals and five assists in the 13 games he played in the playoffs. Pavelski was held out of nearly the entire second round against the Colorado Avalanche after sustaining a concussion after a head injury in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, and ultimately did not appear in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final after leaving the previous game after being hit high by Alex Pietrangelo.

Career Summary (via HockeyViz)

Pavelski was a constant on the first line for most of the season, with a dip in minutes as lines were shuffled toward the end of the season. That also led to his linemates varying.

Pavelski started the season with Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi as his linemates, but as the season progressed, he started playing with Joe Thornton and Marcus Sorensen, and then with Logan Couture and Timo Meier on the first line. According to Dobber Sports’ Frozen Tools, Pavelski most frequently played with Couture and Meier, with the threesome being out on the ice 24.78 percent of the time. The trio had a 55.6 percent Corsi for in the regular season, which was the highest of the three main lines Pavelski played on. He also created expected goals at a higher rate at 5-on-5 with Meier and Couture, with 13.75 xGF when adjusted for score and venue.

It certainly can be said that Pavelski has aged like fine wine. At age 34, he was nearly constantly producing at a rate of two primary points per hour in all situations this season, and was close to three P1/60 at one point in the season while averaging 19 minutes per game.

RAPM Chart (via Evolving Hockey)

If Joe Pavelski was on the first unit power-play at any point this season, chances are he would score, and that’s what he did. He had 12 power play goals this season, vastly out-performing his expected goals on the power play this season. However, he created more expected goals at even strength than he actually scored. He wasn’t all that great defensively when it came to expected goals against, but did a good job of limiting opposing shot attempts.

Highlight

There were so many highlights from Pavelski’s explosive season, but of his six game-winning goals in the regular season, this one — off of a turnover by Patrik Laine — stands out. With four seconds remaining in regulation, Timo Meier and Pavelski had a two-on-one opportunity, and Pavelski buried Meier’s pass to give the Sharks the victory.

What comes next?

There’s no way around it: the Sharks are going to be faced with a Sophie’s Choice this summer. They won’t be able to keep both the elite defender in Erik Karlsson or the locker room leader in Joe Pavelski when July 1 rolls around, barring any trades meant to clear up cap room.

Our very own Sheng Peng thinks that Pavelski will net an average annual value of $7.5 million this July with a term of four years, but Evolving Hockey projects Pavelski to get a three-year deal with the same cap hit. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Pavelski take a hometown discount, though, as he has said he wants to return to the Sharks. July 1, and the events leading up to it, should be very interesting.