After attending the University of Michigan, Dylan Larkin was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NHL entry draft. The Waterford, Michigan native grew up as a Red Wings fan. Dylan Larkin has spent his entire career wearing the winged wheel, but what will his next NHL contract look like?
Larkin is entering the final year of his 5-year $30,500,000 contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season. He recently changed his representation to Pat Brisson of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) in preparation for his upcoming free agency. This signals that Larkin feels that the contract negotiations could be less than agreeable. Whether or not this actually turns out to be the case or not remains to be seen.
This comes in an offseason after a season that saw Larkin return to form. He missed nearly half of the 2020-21 NHL season after being cross-checked by Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Six weeks in a cervical hard collar were the result of the hit. He came back strong from the neck injury, scoring 31 goals and adding 38 assists in 71 games played. This 69 points came just four points shy of his career high of 73 in the 2018-19 season.
General manager Steve Yzerman has had experience with difficult contract negotiations in his time with the Red Wings. Tyler Bertuzzi signed a 2-year contract worth $9.5 million in July of 2021. This was one year after Bertuzzi signed a 1-year contract after the two sides could not come to an agreement and went to arbitration. While neither side wanted to go to arbitration, a deal was able to be worked out quickly. Dylan Larkin will want to avoid a contract negotiation like this so that there are no hard feelings between himself and the team.
Bertuzzi’s injury history was certainly the reason that Yzerman was reticent to give him a long-term contract. After a hot start to the 2021 season that saw Bertuzzi score 5 goals and 7 points in 9 games, he would undergo back surgery in April that was the result of nagging back pain. How this back injury and the resulting surgery will age with the playing style of Bertuzzi is a reasonable question for Yzerman to have.
Yzerman’s History of Smart NHL Contracts
The general manager has also signed contracts that give the team flexibility. Perhaps this was all in preparation for when Yzerman felt the team was ready to compete for a playoff spot. A number of free agents were brought into the team during the 2021-22 offseason to improve the roster and make them more difficult to play against night in and night out. It could be argued that this was the undoing of former head coach Jeff Blashill, whose contract Yzerman did not renew after the 2021-22 NHL season.
CapFriendly is a website that analyzes the contracts of NHL players and the salary cap information for each team. Based on this tool, Larkin can be compared to Mika Zibanejad, Bo Horvat and Tomáš Hertl. How does Larkin compare to these three players from a statistical perspective? Keep in mind that the teams these three players are on are in various stages of competing for a Stanley Cup.
Similar NHL Contracts
At 29 years old, Zibanejad finished the 2021-22 season with the second most points for the New York Rangers with 81, behind only Artemi Panarin who had 96 points. Zibanejad was certainly an important piece on the Rangers’ first line. Much in the same way that the Red Wings have been searching for a second-line center, the Rangers have been looking for a center to take the scoring pressure off of Zibanejad. Zibanejad signed an 8-year contract extension with the Rangers in October of 2021. The average annual value of this contract is $8.5 million.
At 27 years old Horvat set a career-high with 31 goals for the Vancouver Canucks. His season was cut short after he broke his foot blocking a point shot from Anton Stralman of the Arizona Coyotes. The Canucks are in a rebuild. Horvat is also the captain of his team like Larkin and tends to lead by example. The Canucks signed Horvat to a 6-year contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million.
Hertl has also signed an 8-year contract extension with his team in March of 2022 with an average annual value of $8 million. At 28 years old Hertl is likely to be a San Jose Shark for the rest of his career. Hertl scored the second most goals of his career in 2021-22 with 30 goals scored in 82 games played. David Quinn has recently been hired as the next head coach of the Sharks.
The Red Wings have plenty of salary cap space to sign Larkin moving forward. The fact that two of the better performing players on the team during the 2021-22 season were rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond is a bonus. These two players are currently on their entry-level contracts. The two will both earn less than $1 million in 2022-23. According to CapFriendly Seider’s entry-level contract will be for 3 years and Raymond’s will be for 2. This is due to the number of years that a team can sign a player under the age of 25.
Detroit’s Plan to Compete
Yzerman recently gave an interview as to where he believes the expectations for the Red Wings team should be for the 2022-23 season. “As long as there’s progress if our young players continue to improve and the new players that come in have a positive impact…I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet recently said on his 32 Thoughts podcast that Yzerman’s top priority is signing Dylan Larkin to an extension and that he thought that the contract would be similar to Steven Stamkos’ last contract signed by Yzerman. The length of that NHL contract was for 8 years and the average annual value of the contract was $8.5 million.
If the Red Wings find a way to make it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs Larkin will see that the roster moves that Yzerman made were in the best interest of the club. Larkin has only played in 5 playoff games in his career. The team was in need of a rebuild before drafting him after then general manager Ken Holland extended the Red Wings playoff streak to an astonishing 25 straight seasons. Dylan Larkin’s next contract will certainly be the cornerstone of the “Yzerplan”, and likely the next big NHL contract in Detroit.
Do you the Detroit will sign Dylan Larkin to an extension? Who do you think will sign the next big NHL contract? Let us know in the comments below!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images