Joe Pavelski gave up a chance at being an unrestricted free agent next summer for what he believes is a chance to win the Stanley Cup with the only NHL team he's ever played for.
Pavelski signed a five-year contract extension with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Counting the one season remaining on his current contract, the Sharks have Pavelski signed through the 2018-19 season.
His new deal doesn't start until July 1, 2014.
"We haven't turned that corner quite yet," Pavelski said of the Sharks' hunt for the Stanley Cup, which includes trips to the Western Conference Final in 2010 and 2011. "We've been right there every year, and we've had that belief. This past year, obviously it's fresh off your mind, but it was one of the most believable teams I think we've had in the past. With an extra bounce or two here, we felt we could've been there right at the end.
"So to be a part of the core, to play those minutes, to be looked at like that, it's one of the big reasons why I believe this team can win. It's because we've been there, we've learned, we've grown up as a group in a lot of ways. To keep trying and be a part of it, it's just pretty special."
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson identified re-signing Pavelski as a priority because of how important he is to the core of the team now and in future seasons.
"He's a hockey player," Wilson said. "We use him on the point on the power play. We use him on the first line. We use him on key faceoffs, blocking shots. He won a national championship in college [University of Wisconsin] for a reason."
Pavelski's contract extension, as well as the one Logan Couture signed July 5, is an indication that the Sharks are close to entering a new phase as a team.
Dan Boyle is 37, Joe Thornton is 34 and Patrick Marleau will be 34 when the 2013-14 season begins. All three are entering the final seasons of their current contracts and Wilson said he's had discussions with all three about their futures in San Jose. But Pavelski is 29, and the general manager said he believes he's just coming into the prime years of his career.
Even if Boyle, Thornton and Marleau are to re-sign with the Sharks (Wilson does not publicly discuss negotiations), San Jose's core appears to be going through a facelift, with Pavelski, Couture, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic clearly being elevated in their roles with the team.
Like Pavelski's deal, Couture's extension kicks in at the start of the 2014-15 season. Burns is one season into a five-year contract, while the clock on Vlasic's five-year contract extension starts this season.
"We're the sum of all our parts," Wilson said. "The beauty of our team is when everybody brings something to the table and plays the way our coaching staff wants us to play, we can play with anybody. You talk about our core, when veteran guys like Joe and Patty and Danny encourage and support guys like [Pavelski] and Logan and [Burns] and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun and Matt Irwin to not only take on more roles and accepting everybody has to bring leadership, it makes you a better hockey team. That's how we look at it. They like to see our younger players step up and do well, and that is the sign of a good team."
Pavelski agreed with Wilson, saying he feels he is just entering his prime despite having playing seven seasons in the NHL. However, he's not sure if this contract extension changes his role with the team because he's already seen as a leader and one of the franchise's top players.
He said his goal over the course of the next six seasons, other than to win the Stanley Cup, is to be a more consistent player.
Pavelski has 150 goals and 186 assists in 479 career NHL games. He also has 50 points in 74 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 12 in 11 games this past spring.
"I've played at a high level at times throughout my career, through stretches, and it's about getting to that high level and it's about maintaining it and expecting that on a nightly basis," Pavelski said. "That's what I believe in myself, that I can do, and I think a lot of players look to you to perform that way, and that's what we need as a group. The consistency has to be there, and that's what I'm looking for and getting to that high level and staying there."
Wilson has no doubt Pavelski can stay there. He already has seen him do it.
"He's a winner," Wilson said. "He's a great role model for many of our other players that are homegrown. The way he plays the game, it's not about stats, even though his stats are very impressive; it's about you can do to make a difference to win a game. That's the way he's wired, the way we want to play. I think he's only going to get better, but he's been pretty good already -- regular season, playoffs and Olympics."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer