Dylan Larkin’s Next Contract Will Cost the Red Wings

It may be a few seasons away, but the Detroit Red Wings should start thinking about budding superstar Dylan Larkin’s next contract now and plan accordingly.

This summer, Sean Monahan and Victor Rask both signed long-term extensions with their respective teams after the expiration of their entry-level contracts. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau will likely do the same with Calgary before the World Cup of Hockey tournament begins. And while Larkin still has two years left on his entry-level contract, Ken Holland and the Red Wings should start budgeting for a raise now so they’re not in trouble when their 20-year old center becomes a restricted free agent in 2018.

So Far, So Good

In his rookie campaign, Larkin surprised many by making the Red Wings out of training camp and starting the season on the first line with captain Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

After scoring in the first period of his first game, Larkin went on to have a fantastic rookie season. He was selected to compete in the 2016 All-Star Weekend and set an All-Star record in the fastest skater competition.

By comparison, Larkin’s rookie season was actually on par with that of a few other famous Red Wings:

Player Rookie Year GP G A PTS
Dylan Larkin 2015-16 80 23 22 45
Henrik Zetterberg 2002-03 79 22 22 44
Pavel Datsyuk 2001-02 70 11 24 35

Larkin finished this past season leading the Red Wings in goals and plus/minus. If he can improve on his numbers this season and next, Larkin will be due for a huge raise on his entry-level, $925,000 AAV contract.

Larkin’s Comparables

When estimating how much Larkin will make on his next contract, it’s helpful to look at other younger players who recently signed long-term deals. Here’s a few players who Larkin and his agent might look at when negotiating his next contract:

Player Rookie Year Rookie Points New Term New AAV
Aleksander Barkov 2013-14 24 6 Years $5,900,000
Filip Forsberg 2013-14 34 6 Years $6,000,000
Gabriel Landeskog 2011-12 52 7 Years $5,571,428
Sean Monahan 2013-14 34 7 Years $6,375,000
Mark Scheifele 2013-14 34 8 Years $6,125,000

In addition, there are a few other players who are in line to receive significant raises before Larkin puts pen to paper on a new contract. These others are also coming off of entry-level contracts and could be used as comparisons when the Red Wings and Larkin’s team sit down to negotiate the new contract.

Player Draft Position 2015-16 Points Per Game 2015-16 AAV
Sam Bennett #4 – 2014 0.47 $925,000
Leon Draisaitl #3 – 2014 0.71 $925,000
Jonathan Drouin #3 – 2013 0.48 $894,167
Nikita Kucherov #58 – 2011 0.86 $894,167
Dylan Larkin #15 – 2014 0.56 $925,000

Managing Other Red Wings Contracts

Tomas Tatar of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings will need to give Tomas Tatar a new, expensive contract as well. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

When Larkin’s current contract expires following the 2017-18 season, the Red Wings are projected to have $46,941,667 on the books heading into the next season. This will surely change with Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brendan Smith, Xavier Ouellet, Robbie Russo, and Andreas Athanasiou signing new deals before then.

In addition, Riley Sheahan, Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek, Anthony Mantha, Dan Renouf, and Tyler Bertuzzi will need new contracts the same summer as Larkin. Holland will need to budget wisely over the next couple years in order to fit all of these players under the 2018-19 salary cap.

The Contract

Holland can go two ways with Larkin’s next contract: sign him to a short-term bridge deal or lock up the budding star to a long-term contract. In the past, Holland has tended to dish out bridge deals, as seen with Tatar and Mrazek. However, Larkin is not a typical restricted free agent, and the Red Wings management team knows that. With that said, Holland and Larkin will come to terms on a long-term extension, rather than a standard bridge deal.

Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings.
(Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

While a few contracts signed between now and the summer of 2018 may further dictate what Larkin will receive from the Red Wings, a conservative estimate will have Larkin signing for eight years at a $6.5 million AAV.

Though Larkin’s contract is more expensive than the ones signed by Barkov, Landeskog, Forsberg, Monahan, and Scheifele, this is not a reflection of the Red Wings missing out on a “hometown deal”, but merely salaries continuing to rise. If Larkin’s projected AAV looks high, consider that price again when Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid sign new contracts with their teams.

If Larkin puts himself in a place where he can demand a salary in excess of $6 million per year, Red Wings fans should rejoice. As seen with the Datsyuk move earlier this summer, Holland can clear cap space if need be. Besides, eight more years of Larkin buzzing around the new Little Caesars Arena is worth the cost. More importantly, locking up a true, franchise center is worth that amount of cap space.

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Is Dylan Larkin already worth $6.5 million per year to the Detroit Red Wings? Will he be after another two years? Comment below to share your thoughts.