Last weekend, it was reported that the Red Wings had presented a new offer to center Dylan Larkin as they look to lock up their captain to a long-term extension. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports (subscription link) that the offer was for the maximum of eight years and carried an AAV of $8MM. Considering there hasn’t been an announcement of an extension at this point, it’s safe to say that the offer was declined.
The proposal represented a fair-sized jump on the $6.1MM Larkin is currently getting on his deal that’s set to expire in June. However, St. James points to the eight-year, $73.2MM extension ($9.15MM AAV) that Mathew Barzal signed with the Islanders as a logical comparable from Larkin’s camp. If that’s the case, the two sides are likely trying to bridge somewhere in the range of a $1.15MM gap per season. While a deal isn’t done yet, the 26-year-old doesn’t believe there’s any sort of strain in negotiations:
It doesn’t seem like there are any hard feelings, it is just the way it is going. With Steve, I don’t really expect anything else. It’s been very professional and we’ve had a lot of conversations about the team and certain things that come up during a season with guys or whatever it may be. It’s been pretty status quo.
Larkin put up his second career 30-goal campaign last season and is averaging just shy of a point per game this season with 43 in 47 contests. If he stays at that pace, it’ll be the third time he averages at least 0.9 points per game. Those are certainly strong numbers but how much more of a ceiling does he still have offensively? While Larkin is deployed as a number one center, there’s typically an expectation that the player in that role can help carry an offense and get past the point-per-game threshold.
That’s likely a big factor in negotiations. A $9M-plus AAV would put Larkin in the top-25 in cap hit among NHL forwards but is he a top-25 forward? Could he still become one as some of Detroit’s young talent continues to develop and improve, bolstering the scoring power for the Red Wings over time? These are the questions that GM Steve Yzerman is certainly pondering at the moment.
It’s certainly not an ideal spot for Detroit to be in. Larkin has made it clear that his desire is to stay with his hometown team. Many expected an extension to be in place by now. But while upping the offer for Larkin may not be ideal from a spending perspective, the alternative isn’t any better as trying to find a new top pivot on the open market comes with its own risks and would likely cost more than they’re offering here.
The Red Wings are a team that’s now in the process of trying to build back into being a playoff contender. That’s a lot tougher task to do without a top center which means Larkin walking in free agency would be a tough blow. Accordingly, even though there’s a sizable gap to be bridged financially, Detroit fans should still have some optimism that they’ll be able to find common ground on a new deal. It’s just going to cost more than Yzerman and the Red Wings would like.
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