How to proceed with Joe Pavelski may be Doug Wilson's biggest decision this summer

San Jose Mercury News |

--SAN JOSE -- "Am I concerned? I don't know. I know I'm going to be playing hockey next year. Hopefully it's going to be here," Pavelski said Thursday. "We love it here. I think something will happen, who really knows, but coming off a lot of emotions coming through the playoffs and that round, we'll sit down and take a look at what will happen here. We're going to be alright, I think, regardless."

Pavelski is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on as he finishes the five-year, $30 million contract he signed in . He led the Sharks with 38 goals this past year, and just completed his fourth season as the team's captain.

But he'll also turn 35 in July, and if Patrick Marleau -- Mr. Shark -- can sign with another team via free agency, just about any player who has worn nothing but teal throughout his NHL career can, or so it seems.

Whether to reach an agreement with Pavelski on dollar -- and particularly term -- figures to be one of Sharks general manager Doug Wilson's biggest decisions this offseason, and there are a few.

Pavelski is one of seven San Jose players that can enter unrestricted free agency this summer, and the Sharks already have a little over $58 million tied up in 15 contracts for next season.

"It's the nature of the business of a cap system," Wilson said. "When you want to have good hockey teams you have good players who have matriculated up and are going to get paid well, that's the decisions you have to make. We'll get to those things soon enough.

"I guess it's a good problem and a bad problem. Good is you have good players who are going to get compensated well. You want players to want to be here. That mode will start in the next few days."

Pavelski dealt with myriad injuries over the past two months.

The knee injury that forced him to miss seven games toward the end of the regular was re-aggravated after he took a hit from Alex Pietrangelo in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final of the St. Louis Blues. He, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson all had to miss Game 6, which the Blues won 5-1 to capture the series four-games-to-two and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Pavelski finished with four goals and five assists in 13 playoff games, and had one goal and two assists in five games against St. Louis.

"It never fully healed up, but it was good enough to go for awhile," Pavelski said of the injury, which will not require surgery. "Just got hit in a way that kind of lit it up again."

Pavelski also got hit in the mouth with a puck in the opening game of the playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights, and of course took a nasty spill in Game 7 of that series that forced him to miss the first six games of the second round against the Colorado Avalanche. He also had to have hand surgery.

"He got hit in the mouth, had a knee thing, his hand was operated on two weeks ago. He just keeps on going," Wilson said. "And at the end, obviously, he couldn't. But that's why he's the leader that he is. Guys play through things and we missed them all at the end. But that's the nature of the NHL playoffs. Those things will happen."

Healthy again to start the year after he dealt with hand and wrist injuries to start the 2017-18 season, Pavelski's 38 goals were the most he's had in any year since he had 41 in 2013-14. He also had 38 in 2015-16, and has 355 goals and 761 points in 963 career games.

"I definitely expect something like that. I expect that going forward," Pavelski said of his season. "I don't know how else to say it. As players, you set certain levels and you expect to stay at that and reach that.

"Obviously every year is a little different, but it was nice to see it happen again because the other years had little injuries along the way that maybe didn't allow me to do certain things, but there was never a thought that I couldn't do that again or it was going the other way."

Although there hasn't been much in the way of dialogue between the two sides as of yet, Pavelski said he's confident a deal with the Sharks can get done.

"Yeah, I'm pretty confident. I've got a pretty strong belief system that I'll be back here," he said. "It's just things have to work themselves out along the way. We had a lot of things going on with many different players. It's nothing I'm too worried about. My mindset really doesn't change.

"I know where I'm at as a player, and physically right now. So I'll get a little rest. Need to have a good summer, it's like anything, it doesn't matter where you're coming in. My mindset doesn't really change. You go back and you try to add different layers throughout the summer and all to prepare you to have a good season and have a shot at the end."

___

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