If you were to tell me that the Chicago Blackhawks could be targeting a 35-year-old forward as a major addition this offseason, I would have said you were crazy.
After the negligible contribution that a player like Chris Kunitz had on the Blackhawks just last season, I would have thought that younger would have been the direction they chose.
However, when reports of Erik Karlsson’s 8-year, $92 million deal came out and that it might come at the cost of their captain, Joe Pavelski, immediately there was rumbling that the Blackhawks could be interested in the 34-year-old (turns 35 this offseason) Pavelski. He, along with other Sharks, could be something that the Blackhawks pursue after the Karlsson extension.
In Mark Lazerus’ column in The Athletic, he points out that if Pavelski were to go to the open market, there would be interest between Chicago and Pavelski, who played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin.
Pavelski has continued to be a stabilizing forward for the Sharks. He has been a consistent producer at the NHL since he entered the league during the 2006-2007 season.
Throughout his career, Pavelski has been amazingly consistent with 963 total games played, 355 goals and 406 assists. Those numbers are extremely impressive, but he was always seen as a bit of a secondary piece behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Logan Couture, all while being the team’s captain since 2015.
It is honestly difficult to imagine Pavelski leaving the Sharks, but just two years ago we saw another staple of San Jose, Patrick Marleau, leave for a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, two years into Marleau’s tenure with Toronto, it appears that he has begun to miss his adopted home of San Jose.
After seeing what happened to Marleau, would Pavelski look towards greener pastures?
He might have to consider it, as the money just might not be there in San Jose with players like Timo Meier, Kevin Lebanc, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi in need of new deal. Nyquist and Donskoi are unrestricted free agents, but with Nyquist’s playoff performance and Donskoi’s lower cap need, they could be prioritized over Pavelski who is nearing the end of his career.
Why Should the Blackhawks Be Interested in Pavelski?
He is going to be 35 years old to start the season, he had a tough injury during the Stanley Cup playoffs and has seen his production slowly slip from his career high of 79 points in 2013-2014.
There are two reasons I think he should be a target for the Blackhawks, one being he would come in as a cheaper option for top-six scoring. According to a recent article over on SportsNet, it sounds like Pavelski is looking for something in the $5 million range. At that price, for his current production, he would be a valuable addition to the Blackhawks’ forward depth.
Pavelski is still a beast analytically, as he still drives possession at a tremendous rate during even strength with a 54.7% Corsi. He can still start in the defensive or offensive zone, with a 53%/47% split last season.
Secondly, he brings the type of skill set the Blackhawks could use to help their special teams deficiency with bolstering a nonexistent second power-play unit and would provide another defensive option on the penalty kill.
Pavelski is a guy that plays with a lot of grit in his game while still being a highly skilled player. He could also provide some roster flexibility, as he could slot on the top line with Jonathan Toews. If needed, he could move to center if the Blackhawks do decide to move on from Artem Anisimov.
A valuable forward who brings flexibility to their line up, as well as some much-needed depth, are the main reasons the Blackhawks should target Pavelski if he hits free agency on July 1st. Will Bowman be willing to go to the third year that Pavelski is looking for is uncertain, but as a player, Pavelski checks a lot of the boxes the Blackhawks could use in a free agent forward.