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Stars’ Pavelski not planning to play any more after 1,533 games over 18 NHL seasons

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche

FRISCO, Texas — Joe Pavelski says he has no plans to play any more in the NHL after 1,533 games over 18 seasons, and never getting to raise the Stanley Cup.

“This was it for me, like it was known for a while probably,” Pavelski said Tuesday, two days after the Dallas Stars lost in Game 6 of the Western Conference final for the second year in a row.

Pavelski, who just wrapped up his fifth season with the Stars and turns 40 next month, said he was still decompressing and going through the emotions that come with the end of a season.

“I don’t want to say this is official, but, you know, the plan is not to be coming back. There’ll be more to come on that,” Pavelski said. “Everything’s still raw, like nothing official. There’ll be more words and I’m going to need a little bit of time to really put it together and figure it out that way.”

The Wisconsin native, whose 74 playoff goals are the most for a U.S.-born player and were the most among active players, was at the end of his contract with the Stars. He went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 in his first season with Dallas, and also got that far with San Jose in 2016.

“Consummate pro. Yeah, just the highlight of my coaching career was working with him,” said coach Pete DeBoer, who had Pavelski as his captain in San Jose for four years before being hired by the Stars two years ago. “I’m so glad I got the opportunity to come back and do it again after San Jose.”

Selected 205th overall in the seventh round by the Sharks in the 2003 draft, Pavelski made his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season and went on to score 476 goals with 592 assists in 1,332 regular-season games. This season ended with him being fifth among active players for goals and seventh with 1,068 points.

Pavelski last week became the 25th player to appear in 200 postseason games; he finished with 201. He is the only one in that group without a Cup title. He had one goal in 19 games this postseason.

The Stars were the top seed in the Western Conference in these playoffs. After getting through the first two rounds against Vegas and Colorado, the last two Stanley Cup champions, their season ended with a 2-1 loss Sunday night in Edmonton.

“Couldn’t ask for a better opportunity, a better group of guys to be around,” Pavelski said. “There’s been a lot of different emotions down the stretch.”

Wyatt Johnston, the 21-year-old forward who was the Stars’ leading scorer this season, lived with Pavelski and his family while playing his first two NHL seasons.

“There’s so much that I’ve learned from him, and can’t thank him and his family enough for what they’ve done for me,” Johnston said. “It’s not just me that he’s had a huge impact on. It’s everyone, he’s the whole organization.”

Asked how long he had known this probably was Pavelski’s last season, Johnston said he didn’t know exactly, “but living around the house, you kind of get to know. Definitely makes us, you know, wanted to win a little extra, extra more, for him.”

Pavelski said he and his family would be moving back to Wisconsin.

After 13 seasons with the Sharks, Pavelski was unable to work out a deal to stay in San Jose and instead signed a $21 million, three-year contract with the Stars in the summer of 2019. He since signed consecutive one-year deals, earning $5.5 million this season with a $3.5 million base salary plus incentives based on games played.

He played in all 302 regular-season games for Dallas the past four seasons.

“I don’t think it’ll really set in until next year when we come back for camp and he’s not there,” goalie Jake Oettinger said. “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.”

After missing two weeks while in concussion protocol during last year’s playoffs, Pavelski returned in Game 1 of the second round and became the oldest player with a four-game goal in the NHL playoffs while matching the Stars’ playoff record. That epic performance, including two goals in the third period to force overtime, came in a 5-4 loss to Seattle.

Pavelski had missed the last five games of the first-round series against Minnesota after taking a big hit and banging his head hard on the ice in Game 1.