Red Wings: Dylan Larkin Gaining Leverage in Contract Negotiations

Dylan Larkin and the Detroit Red Wings are off to a strong start early in the 2022-23 season. The team has been competitive most nights, sporting a 9-5-4 record with Larkin leading the charge. 

Detroit’s captain still needs a new contract, though.

Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings
How much can Dylan Larkin expect for his next contract? (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Larkin’s contract negotiations have been in the news lately, but nothing more than reporters noting that discussions are ongoing. This shouldn’t be surprising – Steve Yzerman and Detroit’s management team tend to operate in secrecy. 

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With that being said, let’s examine how recent events have impacted Larkin’s contract negotiations. 

Red Wings, Larkin & Recent Events

Before the 2022-23 season kicked off, my model projected that Larkin’s new deal would fall somewhere between $7 million to $8.5 million, with an eight-year, $65.5 million contract ($8,187,500 AAV) being the most likely option agreed upon.

In addition, I caveated the projection with a few notes about timing – how delaying could alter the terms of the contract:

“If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, 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.”

What happened? All of the above.

First, it was reported that the salary cap could rise significantly in the near future. This is not set in stone just yet, but it’s reasonable to expect that the flat cap will go away soon.

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Second, the New York Islanders and franchise center Mathew Barzal agreed to an eight-year, $73.2 million ($9.15 million AAV) extension. Barzal is a year younger than Larkin and quite different stylistically. Still, you have to imagine this deal will influence Detroit and Larkin’s negotiations to a degree.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal skating with the New York Islanders. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

And finally, Larkin has been outstanding for the Red Wings. He’s producing at over a point per game and has been effective in all situations. Clearly, he’s motivated to help Detroit emerge from their rebuild and secure his financial future.

Now, how has all of this impacted the projection for Larkin’s new deal? Let’s find out.

Updated Red Wings/Larkin Contract Projection 

Given the events that have taken place since the start of the season, it’s fair to say that Larkin’s contract projection has gone up.

Dylan Larkin Andrew Copp Detroit Red Wings
Like Andrew Copp, Dylan Larkin can expect a big pay day. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

My model now lists Elias Pettersson, Nico Hischier, and Filip Forsberg as the top comparables. And while Barzal is another mid-20s 1C, he doesn’t compare well with Larkin currently. He’s still listed among quality players, just not players who are similar to Larkin.

With these comparables in mind, my model now projects Larkin’s contract extension to land somewhere in the range of $8 million to $9.3 million per year. An eight-year deal with an $8.55 million AAV is now the most likely outcome – a 4.4 percent increase in AAV.

Related: Red Wings Would Be Crazy to Trade Dylan Larkin

However, this projection is contingent on Larkin maintaining his current production, which may or may not be sustainable. It also assumes that no more external events (signed contracts, salary cap news, etc.) that could influence negotiations take place. 

Final Word

It’s been great to see Larkin playing the best hockey of his career so far this season. He’s one of the main reasons why the Red Wings are doing so well.

But his production comes at a cost – future salary cap space. If Larkin continues to dominate, the Red Wings will have to pony up a significant amount for his next contract.