There are still some big name restricted free agents that remain unsigned around the league, including Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings. After leading his club in scoring last season Larkin wasn’t eligible for arbitration and was in no rush to get a new contract early in the offseason. Larkin was a guest coach at the Red Wings’ youth camp today, where he spoke to reporters including Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press:
I feel pretty confident that something will get done before training camp. No worries about it.
St. James tweets that the two sides are looking at a five or six-year contract, which would buy out at least one unrestricted free agent year. Every time that you take away UFA seasons from a talented young player the cap hit of the deal will increase, something that the Red Wings will have to carefully navigate in contract talks. The team currently has just $2.8MM in cap space, though Johan Franzen’s contract will eventually be placed on long-term injured reserve. The team can also be up to $7.95MM (10% of the cap) over the ceiling during the offseason, meaning they could sign Larkin and then make additional moves before the year begins.
With 63 points last season, Larkin finally started fulfilling his potential as a top center in the NHL. His physical gifts are obvious, blessed as one of the league’s fastest skaters and possessing high-end puck skills and playmaking ability. His 39 even-strength assists put him behind only Connor McDavid, Claude Giroux, Artemi Panarin, Steven Stamkos and Mathew Barzal, while his 6.9% shooting percentage will almost certainly improve going forward. Logging nearly 20 minutes a night, Larkin established himself as the future in Detroit and could easily take another step forward next season after turning 22 just a few days ago.
The Red Wings are still in trouble financially for the next few seasons, but are slowly turning things around through the draft. With Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno joining the organization from this draft’s first round, and other young players like Dennis Cholowski and Michael Rasmussen closing in on the NHL, there could be a youth movement coming in the next few seasons. Larkin will be the spearhead for that movement, and should get some contract certainty in the next few weeks.