The offseason may be over, but Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman still has two high priority tasks on his plate: contract extensions for Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. Today, we’ll focus on Detroit’s captain and what to expect with his new deal.
Larkin is entering the final year of his contract and is eligible to sign an extension at any point. His current deal includes a $6.1 million AAV—7.4 percent of the $82.5 million salary cap—though it only pays him $5.25 million this season. He’s due for a raise – how much, exactly, is what we’ll determine. Let’s dig in.
Negotiation Between the Red Wings & Larkin
When the two sides meet, contract term shouldn’t be a point of contention. It’s fair to assume that Larkin and the Red Wings want to continue their partnership for another decade-plus, so a max, eight-year deal can be expected.
There’s a chance, though, that Larkin’s representatives push for a shorter-term contract—think three or four years—so they can renegotiate a longer, more lucrative deal when NHL revenue stabilizes and the salary cap rises. This can be a leverage point if the two sides aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on salary.
Speaking of salary, it would not be surprising if Larkin’s agent pushes for at least $9 million per season. He provides that much value – both on and off the ice. Larkin is the face of the franchise, the unquestioned leader, and a high-visibility community ambassador – on top of being the organization’s best player.
While the Red Wings want to keep Larkin happy, it’s also a priority to maintain salary cap flexibility. The roster consists of 23 players, after all. Paying Larkin $9 million per season reduces that flexibility.
This negotiation also sets the tone for future contract extensions. As I mentioned earlier, Bertuzzi needs a new deal, too. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider will be eligible for extensions next summer as well. If the team pays Larkin handsomely, you can expect Detroit’s other star players to reference this in their own negotiations.
If the two sides fail to reach an agreement in the near future, they can walk away and try again later – closer to the end of the 2022-23 season. There’s risk in doing so, though. Larkin could either exceed or fall short of expectations, driving up or down future earnings. In addition, other contract extensions will be signed between now and then, impacting the captain’s value accordingly. The two sides will need to consider these risks when thinking about walking away.
With these factors in mind, let’s move onto the good stuff – the actual contract projection.
Red Wings/Larkin Contract Projection
Over the last few weeks, I put together a model to project NHL contracts. In Larkin’s case, it likened the captain and his statistical profile to Mark Scheifele, Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture.
To properly assess the validity of Larkin’s comparables, let’s dig into the three contracts. The table below outlines their details:
|Player||Year Signed||Term||AAV||Cap Hit %|
|Mark Scheifele||2016||8 Years||$6,125,000||8.39%|
|Tomas Hertl||2022||8 Years||$8,137,500||9.98%|
|Logan Couture||2018||8 Years||$8,000,000||10.06%|
Right off the bat, you can see that all three players re-signed with their respective clubs for eight years. This tracks with the likeliest term for Larkin, as noted above.
Salary is where it gets interesting. Scheifele’s deal comes with an AAV just north of $6 million, while Hertl and Couture are in the $8 million range. But since these contracts were signed at different points in time, let’s look at the cap hit percentage instead – the AAV divided by that year’s upper limit. This view takes into account how the salary cap has grown, since it was only $73 million when Scheifele signed his contract extension.
Using the cap hit percentages, here’s what the three contracts would look like if they were signed with the 2023-24 season’s $83.5 million salary cap in place:
- Mark Scheifele: 8.39% x $83.5 million = $7,005,650 AAV
- Tomas Hertl: 9.98% x $83.5 million = $8,333,300 AAV
- Logan Couture: 10.06% x $83.5 million = $8,400,100 AAV
Roughly put, this indicates an AAV range of $7 million to $8.5 million for Larkin’s new contract. Given the way salaries have risen lately and with the salary cap expected to rise even further in the coming years, it’s reasonable to assume $8 million to $8.5 million is more appropriate here.
With that being said, I have Larkin and the Red Wings agreeing to an eight-year, $65.5 million contract ($8,187,500 AAV). This deal would include no-movement protection and keep Larkin in Hockeytown through his age-34 season.
As a reminder, contracts are outputs of lengthy negotiations that feature quantitative and qualitative elements. While the projection above may be a reasonable amount that both sides could find fair, there may be other factors in play that are only known to the parties involved.
In Larkin’s case, my projection would keep him in a Red Wings jersey through the 2030-31 season. He would continue to be Detroit’s highest-paid player and receive a salary that better aligns with the value he provides on and off the ice.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.