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Joe Pavelski brings risk, but also high-danger chances for Blackhawks on free agent market

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Pavelski would also be the ultimate “old guy without a Cup.”

Vegas Golden Knights v San Jose Sharks - Game Seven
Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 action against the Vegas Golden Knights
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As part of a continuing series before free agency begins, Second City Hockey breaks down potential offseason targets for the Blackhawks. Here’s Joe Pavelski, the captain of the San Jose Sharks, who will hit the open market and has said he’s interested in Chicago.

The Blackhawks have an interest in a captain that’s not theirs. And that captain has an interest in them. That’s Joe Pavelski, the current Sharks captain, who will hit the open market July 1. While it remains a possibility that he returns to San Jose, there’s also a strong possibility he leaves. And the Blackhawks should be there if he does.

Strengths

While Pavelski, who turns 35 years old July 11, limiting the amount of term a team should be willing to give him — he’s coming off a 38-goal season wherein he also had nine points in 13 playoff games. That’s an absurd number for his age, and while his shooting percentage — 20.2 percent, his career high — has something to do with that and will change, Pavelski is not someone who doesn’t score even during his low years.

He’s had at least 20 goals in every 82-game season since 2008 and in the lockout-shortened season had 16 goals in 48 games. He stays healthy and on the ice, and while he had a severe head injury that took him out of the playoffs this year, he has missed more than 10 games in the regular season since 2009-10. All the things that one would look for in an aging superstar, Pavelski shows no signs of.

Bringing that kind of goal scorer to either the first line, as the left wing with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, or as a second wing or the guy who takes faceoffs with Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat on the second line could be huge. Especially with Pavelski’s impact on the Sharks’ power play last season, making it much better, that’s something the Blackhawks could use as well. Pavelski was 20th in the NHL last season in goals above replacement on the power play.

Pavelski also had a fantastic offensive impact on one of the NHL’s best teams.

That kind of player is rare to find. If he leaves San Jose, the Blackhawks could make a massive addition to their top six. Pavelski has shown an ability to get to the net front and create high-danger chances. With Toews and Kane focused more on the skilled shots they have, and with DeBrincat also having quite a laser, getting a player who can hunt rebounds like Pavelski can is a necessity, if possible.

So Pavelski is the ultimate net front presence, something the Blackhawks firmly lacked last season. Artem Anisimov is supposed to fill that role, but he hasn’t been great at it in recent years. Pavelski also had a 53.2 percent faceoff success rate last season, and while the hope should be that Strome eventually gets better at the dot (he had just a 48.4-percent success rate), bringing in Pavelski in the short term could be a good step. Somebody other than Toews needs to win faceoffs on this team.

Weaknesses

Pavelski is almost 35. A decline is coming. Giving him term, something the Sharks may not be willing to do, which could lead to his departure, is an unwise move. With big swings on term in his tenure, general manager Stan Bowman may be hesitant to do it again.

Still, Pavelski was better last season than he had any right to be, for a few reasons. His game isn’t overly reliant on speed, he has stayed healthy, and the Sharks used him in the right situations. Still, going three years at a high price is a risk for the Blackhawks.

Pavelski also isn’t terrific in his own end.

While that’s fine with Toews, there needs to be a better defensive element with the best friends duo of DeBrincat and Strome, because they’re not terrific defensively either. Pavelski, while excellent in the faceoff circle, may not be the best addition there (but adding Saad to the second and Pavelski to the first could do the trick).

Should the Blackhawks sign him?

Yes, to play on the first line. So long as they’re able to keep the term short, and the training staff gets a look at him first. If Pavelski continues to be healthy, the decline shouldn’t be that harsh. While he’s old, he certainly doesn’t play like it, and he’d be such a great addition to Toews and Kane on the first line.

He’s also a player who can play on the power play and make it better with his high-danger net front presence. His job doesn’t overly rely on skills lost with age, and his is a game that should age gracefully.

Pavelski will also be highly motivated to win the Stanley Cup. At 35, the closest he’s come is the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 against the Penguins. Pavelski is the ultimate in a trope the Blackhawks have relied upon in their Cup seasons — the old guy without a Cup.

Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette in 2015. Marian Hossa was the first guy to touch the Cup after Toews in 2010. In 2013, it was Michal Handzus, coincidentally, a 35-year-old former Shark.

But the Blackhawks have seen too many players who should have aged gracefully fall off a cliff, and at younger ages than Pavelski.

Poll

Should the Blackhawks sign Joe Pavelski?

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  • 80%
    Yes
    (613 votes)
  • 19%
    No
    (153 votes)
766 votes total Vote Now