One of Detroit’s brightest young stars, Dylan Larkin, will require a contract extension as his entry-level contract expires next season. With the Wings already being in a cap crunch, it would be smart to start predicting what this extension could look like, so the cap can be managed accordingly.
Let’s first look at what Larkin did in his first 2 NHL seasons. Getting off to a hot start to his NHL career, Larkin was phenomenal in the first half of the 2015-16 season, scoring 15 goals and 33 points by the All-star game. However, down the stretch he struggled to keep up this scoring pace, finishing the year with 22 goals and 45 points. Despite the poor finish, D-Boss still managed to lead the team in goals. This past season, he experienced a sophomore slump, producing only 17 goals and 32 points, in a year where he was expected to improve.
Now that we know what he’s done, the best way to determine his extension would be to look at comparables. An important note is that Larkin will not have arbitration rights, so most of the control belongs to Detroit, so keep that in mind. Back to the comparables, I will be looking at Connor Brown and Tomas Hertl. Brown who played his rookie season this past year scored 20 goals and 36 points (both better then Larkin.) Brown was rewarded with a 3 year contract worth $2.1M AAV. When you consider Larkin was also 2 years younger and produced much more his rookie year, he will most likely have a higher AAV.
Looking at Hertl, over the course of his 3 year ELC he scored 102 points in 200 games for a 0.51 PPG. Larkin so far in his career has produced a 0.48 PPG. Hertl was given a 2 year deal worth $3M AAV back in 2016-17. Hertl did have a big contract year, scoring 46 points, which played a big part in his raise. The reason I am mentioning this is because Larkin still has 1 more year left on his ELC, so what he does this upcoming season will play a big role in negotiations.
If Larkin scores at the pace of his rookie season, we could see a similar deal to Hertl. If it is more of what last year was like, it could be closer to Brown’s deal. If Larkin manages to outproduce both years and reach a 55-60 point season, the best comparable for him would be Jaden Schwartz’s deal back in 2014-15. After scoring 56 points in his first full season in the NHL, he signed a 2 year deal worth $2.35M AAV. However, Schwartz was not able to score at the pace of Larkin after his first 2 NHL seasons, scoring at a 0.31 PPG vs Larkin’s 0.48. It’s also worth noting Schwartz was not able to play a full season in his first 2 years of his ELC, while Larkin was.
So when you factor all that in, Larkin could see a 2-3 year deal worth around $3M AAV if he can produce at least the pace he did in his rookie season. If he scores closer to what Schwartz did in his contract year, I can’t see it going any higher than $3.3M AAV. And remember, like I said earlier Larkin doesn’t have arbitration rights, so he won’t have as much power to argue his value to the team, which should keep the AAV lower.