Dylan Larkin Signs Big Extension With Red Wings

After weeks of speculation that a deal was close, the Detroit Red Wings announced on Friday they’ve have re-signed and locked up forward Dylan Larkin to a hefty five-year contract extension worth $6.1 million annually. The contract was first announced by The Athletic’s Craig Custance.

Larkin had repeatedly told media that he believed a deal would come prior to the start of NHL training camp. On Wednesday, Larkin said, “Something’s coming… It’s right there. I’m just waiting to iron out the details.” He was right as less than 48 hours later he was inked to a deal that ensures he’s one of the organization’s future stars for the next number of seasons.

A player known for his lightning speed, Larkin led the Wings in scoring last season and his 16 goals put him in a tie for third on the team. Now 22, his production jumped 29 points from the 2016-17 campaign and he quickly emerged as one of the Red Wings’ best all-around players. His 63 points ranked him 61st in NHL scoring.

Getting Larkin Signed

Part of the delay in the deal was the salary cap situation for the Red Wings. Prior to signing Larkin, the team had just over $2 million in cap space. Even with the plan to put Johan Franzen on long-term injury reserve, GM Ken Holland needed to figure out a way to fit Larkin into the team’s cap structure. As of now, the Red Wings are over the cap with no space left to sign anyone and while future moves will have to be made to get back under the cap, the team can go up to 10% ($7.95 million) over the ceiling during the offseason.

Dylan Larkin Red Wings
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings, December 20, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Larkin’s deal, while not prohibitive to the team long-term, creates work for the Red Wings this summer. After putting Franzen on LTIR, the Red Wings may try and move names like Gustav Nyquist, Jimmy Howard and/or Niklas Kronwall. Those hefty contracts can certainly come off the books after next summer if they can’t come off earlier. Should they not, one has to wonder what Holland intends to do and if names like Darren Helm and/or Luke Glendening could be made available.

Related: NHL Rumors: Larkin, Hutton, Vasilevskiy, More

The Larkin Contract

Unlike a number of the big-ticket signings this summer, Larkin’s contract is not heavily frontloaded with signing bonuses. Custance also provided a breakdown of Larkin’s new deal:

  • 2018-19: $5.75 million salary + $1 million signing bonus
  • 2019-20: $7 million salary
  • 2020-21: $4.75 million salary
  • 2021-22: $6.75 million salary
  • 2022-23: $5.25 million salary

His $6.1 million annual salary now makes him the highest-paid Red Wing, just above Henrik Zetterberg ($6.083 million). With Zetterberg nearing the end of his career, this deal represents the Red Wings best player earning the most money. Drafted 15th overall by the Red Wings in 2014, in less than four seasons, Larkin has quickly emerged as the team’s top star.

Related: Wayne Gretzky Almost Joined the Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings Moving Forward

Unfortunately, the Red Wings saw their 25-year playoff streak come to an end in 2017. This upcoming season looks to be even more tumultuous as rumors have circulated that Zetterberg’s injuries have him questionable for a good portion of the season. Without major stars or prospects ready to impact the NHL like they have in past seasons, the franchise is arguably facing a rebuilding phase but also has a number of nearly untradable contracts. The team isn’t in full rebuild mode, but more a retooling process.

Mike Green, Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Larkin committed long-term, at the very least, Holland ensures he has a franchise star Detroit can build around for several more years. The hope is that Larkin, along with recently drafted offensive prospect Filip Zadina will be the start of a quick turnaround, ushering in a new era of winning hockey.

Larkin will need to continue to progress now that he’s earned himself a sizeable pay increase. Should he not have another strong season, the Red Wings will not be considered likely candidates to make the postseason for a second consecutive season.