The Joe Pavelski era, it appears, is over.

But Stars fans can and should be very thankful that they were able to enjoy the final five seasons of his 18-year career.

"This was it for me,” Pavelski said Tuesday at exit interviews. "The plan is not to play next year. I don't want to say this is official, but the plan is not to be coming back. There will be more to come on that. Everything is still so raw, nothing official. I'm going to need a little bit of time to really put it together and figure it out that way. Most likely that was it and I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity and a better group of guys to be around."

Pavelski on his future

Pavelski will turn 40 in July and would end his career with 1,332 regular-season games, in addition to another 201 in the playoffs. The postseason number is tough because Pavelski will retire without having won a Stanley Cup, the most games in NHL history by any player in that regard. The hope was that this would be the year for him.

“It definitely made us want to win a little more for him,” said Stars forward Wyatt Johnston, who has lived with Pavelski and his family for the past two seasons. “We all believed we could have won the Cup. You work so hard to get those opportunities.”

Johnston discusses end of season, Pavelski's impact

The Pavelski news put even more emotion into a tough finish for the Stars. Dallas had the best record in the Western Conference this season at 52-21-9 (the second-best in franchise history) and had already dispatched the two most recent champs in Vegas and Colorado in the first two rounds. So losing to Edmonton in six games just before the Final was a disappointment.

“Still gutted by the end,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday. “Any time you get to the final four, it feels like a missed opportunity.”

And that was the tough part for Pavelski. He has missed the playoffs just twice in his career with San Jose and Dallas, and this really seemed like his best chance to win it all.

“It still stings, it’s going to sting for a while. It’s disappointing, in a sense because we believe we should still be playing,” Pavelski said. “That’s the way it felt, that’s the way we believed, every guy in that room. And it was real. We believed we could beat anybody, that we were good enough, so it’s disappointing that way.”

Pavelski will likely end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done. He is 55th all-time in goals scored at 476 and 71st in points at 1,068. He is 21st all-time in playoff games played at 201 and 37th in playoff points at 143. He was also tied for 5th in playoff game-winning goals with 18.

“Consummate pro,” said Stars coach Pete DeBoer, who coached Pavelski in both Dallas and San Jose. “The highlight of my coaching career was working with him, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to do it again after San Jose here for a couple of years."

DeBoer explains overcoming a tough end to the season

Pavelski’s time in Dallas has been impressive. He signed as a free agent in 2019 just before turning 35 and then proceeded to post some of the best numbers in his career. He finished with 307 points (121 goals, 136 assists) in 369 games. His 0.83 points per game was even better than the 0.79 he had in the first 13 seasons of his career with the Sharks.

“I felt like I was coming from San Jose to here still at a fairly high level, and I believed in that,” he said. “I had a high expectation for my game, and I was glad to see it get back to that level. It wasn’t just all about me. I played with some great players and in an organization that had good people and good talent.”

Pavelski played mostly on a line with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, and for a while, that was one of the best lines in the league. Not only did he help those players, but he also has been a positive influence on several players on the Stars. He was one of the best puck tippers in the league and he worked relentlessly on that skill before practice. In doing so, he brought teammates into his drills and helped create a work ethic for the team.

“That’s rubbed off on all of our guys, not just our young players,” DeBoer said. “I think his fingerprints are going to be all over this [franchise] for a long time.”

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger said he has seen the influence of Pavelski throughout the lineup.

"I don't think it'll really set in until next year when you come back for camp and he's not there,” Oettinger said. “When you're on the plane and he's right next to me and he's not in his seat. I just don't think there's enough words to say how big of a presence he is and it's not a hole you'll ever be able to fill. You'll do the best you can, but you're never going to fill that. He's just the ultimate teammate and human being. Being his teammate for four years has been unbelievable. The things that he's taught me, it's not even the words he says, it's just how he does it. I think the best thing about him is he doesn't just say it, he embodies it. He's an all-time teammate."

Oettinger on offseason training, partner Wedgewood

DeBoer said maybe the most important lesson Pavelski has taught is off the ice.

“Probably the biggest thing is how you can enjoy the game,” the coach said. “Under the pressure to perform and perform to your contract and win games and win Stanley Cups, you’ve still got to enjoy the ride. That’s the great thing that Joe has found the balance of. You’ve got to enjoy the day-to-day grind of what we do for a living. He does that as well as anybody. That’s a huge part and I would hope our young guys got a piece of that.”

Pavelski said he and his family will move back to his home in Wisconsin and then sort things out from there.

"There's so many emotions going on right after that game," Pavelski said. "They're all real. I couldn't have asked for more; better teammates, organization, everything. We worked hard to try to get to the top and we came up a little short. But just really enjoyed the time here and what we've been able to accomplish with them together."

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.