EDMONTON | Joe Pavelski had always worn the Sharks uniform. He was part of the furniture in San Jose with nearly 1,000 games (963) in 13 seasons. Unable to get along with the team that drafted him in the 7th round in 2003, Pavelski opted for a fresh start on 1 July 2019.
The veteran thus initialed a two-year, $ 14 million contract with the Dallas Stars. More than a year after this signing, the American is getting closer to his dream of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time.
By a curious coincidence, he juggled two teams when he left San Jose: Dallas and Tampa Bay.
“It was my first time in the free agent market,” Pavelski recalled Tuesday. I received calls and listened to proposals. I thought if I was going to leave San Jose, it would be to join a team that had a good chance of winning. It was my goal.
“I had identified a few teams and visited a few cities,” he continued. I liked the structure of the Stars, a well-built team defensively. And I found that there were good players. ”
Pavelski did not speak directly to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but we know he also negotiated with Jon Cooper's team.
In his 13 years in San Jose, Pavelski reached the final once. It was in 2016. The Sharks had lost in six games to the Penguins.
The 36-year-old Pavelski still has a big impact on a team and not just for his leadership skills. After an average season by his standards (31 points, including 14 goals) in 67 games with the Stars, he has regained his stride in the playoffs.
In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, he scored his 10th goal in his 23rd game. It was a goal in his image. Installed in front of the opposing goalkeeper, he redirected a shot from defender John Klingberg.
With that goal, Pavelski became only the fourth player in NHL history to score 10 or more goals in a playoff year at the age of 36 or older.
Maurice Richard holds the record with 11 goals in 1958 with the Canadian. Wayne Gretzky, with the Rangers in 1997, and Brett Hull, with the Red Wings in 2004, also had 10 goals.
From enemies to teammates
In the Stars' locker room, there's another veteran who'll likely play his last cards in a Stanley Cup final. Bought by the Anaheim Ducks last year, Corey Perry signed a one-year, 1.5 million pact with the Stars.
At 35, Perry is on his last miles in the NHL. But unlike Pavelski, he already has a cup ring. He triumphed in his second season with the Ducks in 2007.
Not that long ago, Perry and Pavelski were rivals with the Ducks and Sharks.
“In my years with the Ducks, I played against the Sharks and Joe a lot, in season or in the playoffs,” Perry said with a smile. Even on the international stage, he was a rival. There were several clashes with him. But now we are teammates and we have the same ambition.
“A few games ago I ended up on a podium with Corey,” Pavelski added. I looked at the screen and found it funny. I was sitting next to Corey. We had some good battles against each other, but now it's nice to be on the same team. ”