The Red Wings were able to check one of their biggest goals off their offseason to-do list.
The team announced Friday that they’re bringing back restricted free agent Dylan Larkin on a five-year deal, securing one of the major building blocks during the prime of his career. The deal reportedly is worth $30.5 million and provides a centerpiece for the Wings’ youth movement, as they look to bounce back to the playoffs from a couple down years.
“It’s a really good contract for the Red Wings and it’s a really good contract for Dylan,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Friday on a conference call announcing the move.
Larkin, 22, was the Wings’ first-round pick (15th overall) in 2014 after playing a year at Michigan. A Waterford native, Larkin was an All-Star in 2016 ad represented the United States in the 2017 World Championships.
The signing means that he gets to stay home and continue to develop — potentially as the Wings’ central figure.
“It’s a huge honor to be playing in my hometown and to have this commitment of five years. To be a Red Wing for five more years, it’s a great honor and something I’m proud of,” Larkin said. “I feel really good about getting this contract done.”
As Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg reaches the twilight of his career, Larkin looks to be the heir apparent as a team leader — and could eventually become captain.
A long-term deal is a step in that direction, showing the team’s confidence in him as a leader both in the locker room and on the ice.
“The leadership part is natural. I don’t try to be a person I’m not,” Larkin said. “As the years have gone on, I’ve learned a ton and I’m more mature. I’ve grown up in the leadership part and I’ve learned from some of the best leaders in the game in Henrik Zetterberg, (Niklas) Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, (Justin) Abdelkader and Trevor Daley.
“I want to drive the bus and be that go-to guy.”
The long-term deal is a step in that direction, showing the team’s confidence in him as a leader both in the locker room and on the ice.
For Holland, getting the deal done before training camp was a priority, to remove the uncertainty and have one of their young stars focused on improving, rather than worrying about numbers and his long-term future.
Now, it’s on to other priorities.
“I’m happy we were able to get all those four young forwards (Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi) signed to contracts before the middle of August,” Holland said. “In Dylan’s case, we’ve been working really hard since the middle of July.”
The youth movement will move forward, with a focus on getting more ice time for the young players and assessing their value. Since their heyday, that’s been the desire direction — now, it’s in full motion.
“We’ve been talking about the direction we’re going in Detroit — we’re going younger and we’re trying to rebuild it. We’re going to give some other young players a chance in camp to earn their way onto the team,” Holland said. “We’ve acquired some draft picks the last couple years and we’re going to continue to try to get more young players on the team and for the young ones here — Larkin, Bertuzzi, Mantha, Athanasiou,
“It’s important they continue to take another step in their career.”
Larkin, who had been playing on his three-year rookie contract worth $4.275 million, led the Red Wings in scoring last season with 63 points, including 47 assists.
Larkin played in all 82 games for the Wings last season, averaging 19:51 of ice time, and had a rating of minus-9.