The Detroit Red Wings have signed captain Dylan Larkin to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.7 million. General manager Steve Yzerman has locked up the centerpiece of his “Yzerplan.” Larkin will be 34 years old at the end of this contract. What does this contract extension say about how Yzerman feels about moving forward? The team has some talented centers in the minor leagues that are waiting to join the big club as soon as next year.
Yzerman has done well to put the Red Wings franchise in a position to have a plethora of salary cap space during his time with the team. This allowed him to sign Larkin to the contract that he did. This came just days after Yzerman signed defenseman Jake Walman to a three-year contract extension. Walman was excited that the team was building something and that he loved playing for the city of Detroit. Walman will join Moritz Seider on the blueline corps for the Red Wings moving forward. New head coach Derek Lalonde has certainly put the team in a position to compete for a playoff spot.
Prior to the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, Yzerman put the team in a position to compete for a playoff position by acquiring many free agents. Some of these moves have worked out better than others. The amount of term and money that defenseman Ben Chiarot signed for was seen as questionable at the time that it happened. The 31-year-old’s play on the ice paired with Seider has not helped this skepticism. Seider’s play has stabilized since being paired with Walman around the turn of the year.
Who will win the Rocket Richard trophy this year?
One thing that no one could have seen was the multiple hand injuries that Tyler Bertuzzi suffered during the season and the entrance of Jakub Vrana in the NHL’s player assistance program. While injuries are something that happens all the time, the severity of these injuries and the multiple contentious contract negotiations between Bertuzzi and Yzerman make it unlikely that he will re-sign with the team. Vrana’s inability to stay in the lineup has also put his future with the team in question.
Larkin has been the best player on the Red Wings roster since being drafted by the team in 2015. The issue is that he is not seen as a number one elite center. The Red Wings may need to acquire that center from another team because they have not been able to win the NHL’s draft lottery to acquire a top-end center. That is not to say that he is not a good player. The Waterford, Michigan native scored a career-high of 31 goals in 2018-19. Larkin has scored 22 goals and added 35 assists in 59 games played so far this season.
The 27-year-old’s play has not gone unnoticed at the NHL level. During the all-star game weekend, the third of his career, Larkin was quoted as saying that it was fun to play with players such as Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This will ultimately not happen outside of all-star games. Larkin participated in the fastest skater competition, a competition that he set the record for during his first all-star game where he clocked a time of 13.172 seconds for one lap around the ice at Bridgestone Arena.
The Red Wings will once again most likely miss the Stanley Cup playoffs, something that has eluded Larkin during his eight-year NHL career. Larkin repeatedly said during the contract negotiations that he wanted to remain a Detroit Red Wing. One thing is very clear though, Larkin has been the consummate professional during his time as a Red Wing. There is no reason to believe that this behavior will not continue. Perhaps winning will follow as Larkin has seen his play and the Red Wings’ roster improve.