Sharks restricted free agents: Big money for 'The Big Pavelski'?

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payvelski.jpgNote: This post continues a series that studies the San Jose Sharks’ cap situation. Check out a “big picture” view here and an outlook on the team’s unrestricted free agents here.

Restricted free agency is a funny thing in all sports, including the NHL. To simplify the process: a player is given a chance to make some money by garnering offer sheets from other teams, but his current franchise can match any offer. Of course, the interesting wrinkle comes when an interested party throws out an offer that’s a little too rich for the host team’s liking. It’s what happened when the Edmonton Oilers (hysterically) infuriated then-Ducks GM Brian Burke by snatching Dustin Penner and kind-of-didn’t happen when Burke traded for Phil Kessel and then signed him to a new deal.

The Sharks have two rather large restricted free agent situations, but for the sake of completion, here’s a list of all of their RFAs.

Pavelski, Joe
Karlsson, Henrik
Setoguchi, Devin
MacIntyre, Cameron
Jones, Matthew
Zalewski, Steven
Rahimi, Daniel
Desjardins, Andrew
Joslin, Derek
Staubitz, Brad

After the jump, I’ll try to get a general idea of the value of their two big RFAs: Joe “The Big” Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi.

setoguchi.jpgIt’s wise to look at precedent when judging a player’s value, especially in situations like these. So here are four players who can serve as rather interesting “measuring sticks.”

Kris Versteeg ($3.08 million cap hit)
Jordan Staal (4)
Kessel (5.4)
Nicklas Backstrom (6.7)

Joe Pavelski

2009-10 season stats: 25 goals, 26 assists for 51 points in 67 games

2009-10 playoff stats: 9 goals, 8 assists for 17 points

From the middle of the Colorado series through most of the tussle with Detroit, Pavelski was one of the hottest players in the NHL. He was the first player to put together three multi-goal games since Mario Lemieux, for goodness sakes. Unfortunately for his contract situation, he simmered down quite a bit toward the end, collecting two assists in the last two games after being blanked for five consecutive games.

Even so, he finished the playoffs with a point-per-game pace and 25 goals in 67 games is pretty nice for a player who can win faceoffs, play a gritty game and do just about everything else. To me, he’s a rich man’s Jordan Staal but it remains to be seen if he can make Kessel-type money.

My wild guess: More than Staal, less than Kessel. Perhaps $5 million per year? Don’t count out a team thinking he has the stuff to be a No. 1 center, though.

Devin Setoguchi

2009-10 season stats: 20 goals, 16 assists for 36 points in 70 games

2009-10 playoff stats: 5 goals, 4 assists for 9 points

Before Dany Heatley stole his spot running shotgun with Joe Thornton, Setoguchi looked like he was going to make serious bank after scoring 31 goals in his first full season with the Sharks. Now, putting up 20 tallies isn’t half-bad, but the right-handed winger’s price tag had to take a tumble after losing the Jumbo Joe effect. You think he feels a little jealous that Jonathan Cheechoo was able to rob the bank before people realized how much his success depended on Thornton’s genius passing?

Setoguchi could still be a very valuable asset since the Sharks will probably be quite a bit less loaded next season, though. While I think it’s possible that Pavelski could get snatched up for a bevy of picks, Setoguchi’s solid-but-unspectacular season will keep him in teal for a semi-reasonable price.

My wild guess: Slightly more than Versteeg, less than Staal. Perhaps something in the $3.5-$3.75 million range?

Again, the big wild card is Pavelski. His masterful first two playoff rounds could make things awfully interesting. Do you think someone will summon the “ghost” of Kevin Lowe and overpay “The Big Pavelski” this off-season?

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.