In a strange way, this whole series of events might work out best for Stars fans.
While the journey of Mats Zuccarello from one-game hero to injured trade acquisition to important playoff complement to needed free-agent target to frustrating free-agent departure has been both endearing and challenging, the decision to ink Joe Pavelski to a three-year contract for $21 million Monday could actually be a better outcome.
Yes, Zuccarello is a great player who would have helped the Stars get better, but Pavelski might be an even greater player who can help the Stars get even better. The soon-to-be 35-year-old center is three years older than Zuccarello, but he is a center, he plays both sides of the puck, and he scores goals.
[COMPLETE COVERAGE: Stars sign Pavelski to three-year, $21 million deal | Perry joins Stars on one-year contract]
"It is not every day a player the caliber of Joe becomes available, and we're thrilled to be able to add him to our club," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "He is a leader in every sense of the word, and a proven goal-scorer that continues to produce at an elite level."
Nill also added veteran forward Corey Perry and defenseman Andrej Sekera on incentive-laden deals on the first day of free agency, and the Stars are starting to take shape for next season.
"I think we add a lot, and hopefully we can take another step next year," said Pavelski, who ended a long career with the San Jose Sharks after they were unable to work a deal with him. He said getting the three years in Dallas was important, but also that his main objective was to find a place to win.
Video: Pavelski excited for chance to win in Dallas
"They sound like a great group of guys who really want to win right now, guys that want to prove something," Pavelski said. "They're coming off a good year where they thought they had a chance to beat St. Louis and came up a little bit short."
Pavelski can hopefully add some offense. He had 38 goals last season. He is averaging more than 32 over the previous five campaigns. He is a power-play dynamo who likes to get to the front of the net and tip pucks. That's something the Stars need.
While Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov each can do that, it's not their strength. Tipping pucks is one of Pavelski's best assets. And on a team where both John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen can float pucks in on the power play at just the right tipping level, well, that seems to be a good fit.
[WATCH: Montgomery reacts to Pavelski signing, Stars' moves in free agency]
"It's the same with Corey Perry," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "I expect us to hit that objective a lot more next year. It's drawing penalties too. If you're in scoring areas and you're getting hooked, they call it. If you're in the neutral zone, they don't call it as much. We just have more people who are going to be in the fight in those areas now."
Also an additional asset that can make Pavelski a key is the fact he was captain in San Jose. Seen as a pro's pro, Pavelski can set a great example for younger players on how to prepare and also can be a big help for captain Jamie Benn.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson sent out a press release thanking Pavelski for his time with the organization, including this passage: "From being a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 to serving as captain of our team for the last four seasons, Joe Pavelski's place in Sharks history is firmly cemented and he will be sorely missed. Joe led by example, not only as a player but as a person, and the impact he has had on this franchise and his teammates will be felt for years to come."
Video: Nill happy with the Stars' moves in free agency
On the concern side, Pavelski turns 35 on July 11 and has played 963 regular season games and 134 in the playoffs. There's a lot of mileage on the tires. That said, Pavelski has been a durable player and has a history of being a gym rat.
"With Joe Pavelski, he is someone who has overachieved his whole career," Montgomery said. "Because of his details, his habits…he's a perfectionist. It's not by fluke that he scores 38 goals at the age of 34. I don't see him slowing down. He's going to make everybody a better goal scorer because of his work habits."
Pavelski said he has never worried about his body and believes he should be just fine for all three years of the contract.
[CONTRACT TRACKER: Follow every move by the Stars in free agency and more]
"I don't know what people say their prime is, but some of my best years have been 30 to 35, and there's no reason that number isn't going to stretch to 35, 36 and 37. I believe that," Pavelski said.
"The one knock on me has always been my skating, that I haven't been as fast as some of the guys. But I've never felt out of place out there. I've always been able to get it done. I think I've been at this level for a long time and I don't see it going down."
The Stars are betting on it.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.