Updated 4x at 2:48 PM: The Red Wings signed Dylan Larkin to a 5-year, $30.5 million contract extension today, and both Larkin and Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with the media shortly after the contract was announced.
The Detroit News’s Rod Beard took note of Larkin and Holland’s remarks…
“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 having played a year at Michigan. A Waterford native, Larkin was an All-Star in 2016 ad represented the United States in the 2017 World Championships.
“It’s a huge honor. To be playing in my hometown, to have this commitment of five years, to be a Red Wing for five more years,” Larkin said on the conference call. “I feel really good about this contract getting 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.”
As did Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples…
“It’s pretty cool,” Larkin said when MiHockey asked him to reflect on the fact that his entire career has played out so close to home. “It’s amazing. I feel pretty emotional right now about it. I don’t know if it’s setting in or anything, but I’ve gotten a lot of texts today and a lot of congratulations. I’m very proud to be from Waterford and be a local boy playing for the Red Wings. Five more years, it’s a great feeling, and that sense of security being home and near my parents – now they’re starting to get sick of going to games. They said they’d never be like that, but, yeah, it’s special and it’s pretty cool.”
He was the last of the big three restricted free agents to sign with the Wings; Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou signed shorter-term deals while Ken Holland and Larkin’s agent worked their way through a more substantial deal for No. 71.
Larkin’s presence in Hockeytown extends beyond his on-ice performances with the Wings. He runs a hockey school with his brother and cousins at his hometown rink of Lakeland Ice Arena. He skates in the Eastside Elite Hockey League in the summer, signing autographs for fans who purposefully or accidentally run into him at Mount Clemens Ice Arena. He is in the process of organizing a star-studded affair of a charity game in honor of the late Jim Johannson, bringing some of the top names in USA Hockey to the NTDP’s home in Plymouth. He understands his role as an ambassador for the game, and he delivers on the expectations. All that, along with everything else he brings to the table, made this contract an easy decision for Ken Holland.
“He just turned 22 here sometime in the month of July, so he’s obviously a young player,” the Wings’ general manager said. “He led our team in scoring with 63 points. As all Red Wings fans have watched him for the three years of his entry-level contract, I think he’s made tremendous progress in learning to play a 200-foot game. His first year pro, he played on the left wing with Zetterberg and had a real nice rookie year with 23 goals. Then the last two years we’ve transitioned him from left wing to center ice where there’s more responsibility and he led our team in scoring last year. He became way better defensively and played way more important minutes last year and at the age of 22, obviously his best years are ahead of him.
“The last thing, when you go into a negotiation, you know your player. Dylan brings a lot of determination and a lot of passion and he loves the game of hockey. Since we’ve been eliminated, our season ended in April, he jumped at the opportunity represent his country at the World Championship for a month, he’s got the Dylan Larkin Hockey School, I know he went to the Dan Cleary Hockey School last week, this week he’s in Toronto at a camp with a lot of other NHL players working on skill development, and then obviously he’ll go back to Detroit and start skating with the players as they start to filter into the town.
“He’s a young player who loves the game of hockey, he loves to be in a rink and he’s 22 and he led our team in scoring. It took some time here, we’ve probably been at it for a couple of months. We started in May with Kurt Overhardt and Joe Oliver, his agent and I, and met a little bit in June at the draft and obviously from the draft to early July, everybody goes in a different direction with free-agency and development camps. We picked it up here in early July and we’ve been talking two, three, four times a week over the last month, trying to find what both sides felt was a good solution for a really good young player in our organization. I think the contract we signed today is a really good contract for Dylan and a really good contract for the Red Wings.”
As WXYZ’s Maxwell White noted, not all was well, however, especially in terms of Henrik Zetterberg’s situation…
Speaking with reporters on a conference call, Holland said that he is anxious to know where Zetterberg is at when it comes to his health.
“He has had a tough summer,” Holland said.
According to Holland, the team is just a little bit over the cap after signing Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and just recently Dylan Larkin.
Zetterberg, 37, has been battling back issues for the past few seasons. According to Holland, he didn’t practice for the last couple of months and just played games.
Holland said he has spoken with Zetterberg’s agent, and said that Zetterberg hasn’t been able to train like he has in the past summers.
Here’s the audio of Ken Holland talking about Zetterberg being “a real unknown” for the team next season. pic.twitter.com/4cuGe94mvC
— Maxwell White (@MaxWhiteWXYZ) August 10, 2018
The Free Press’s Helene St. James also took note of Holland and Larkin’s comments regarding Zetterberg:
“I have talked to his agent a number of times over the course of the summer, and I know he’s had a tough summer,” general manager Ken Holland said Friday. “He hasn’t been able to train anywhere near close to where he’s been able to train past summers due to his back. So there is a real unknown right now with Henrik Zetterberg.”
Zetterberg, who turns 38 on Oct. 9, underwent back surgery in spring of 2014. He has played three straight 82-game seasons, but last year was a struggle, especially as the season wore on.
“He didn’t practice the last two, two-and-a-half months of the season, he just played games,” Holland said.
Zetterberg has three years left on his contract, which carries a $6.083 million annual cap hit. If he is unable to play, the Wings can gain salary cap relief by placing him on long-term injured reserve.
Dylan Larkin, who signed a five-year deal Friday, has been vocal about the impact Zetterberg has had on his career.
“He has to look after his health and his future,” Larkin said. “I know he has played through a lot of pain in his career. He has done so much for our team and the city. He is going to help our team no matter what, if he’s playing with one leg.
“He’s one of the most skilled players I’ve played with and a great leader. He’s our best player on the team. It would definitely hurt losing him, but he does have to look after his future.”
Update: Fox 2 Detroit posted a pair of audio clips from the conference call:
“I’ve been really fortunate to be around here a long time,” Holland said. “The captains, I look at Zetterberg, (Nick) Lidstrom, (Steve) Yzerman, they really led by example. When it was time to say something they stood up and said what needed to be said but for the most part they led by example and earned the respect of their teammates with the way they played the game and the way they practiced and their determination and passion for the game of hockey and for their team.
“I think early in his career, Dylan shows a lot of those intangibles. I think he hates to lose. Everybody loves to win, Dylan really hates to lose. I think that’s an important intangible. He’s got a big motor and he’s always coming every shift, and he’s the same in practice. He’s obviously a really important young player for our organization for a whole variety of reasons. That’s one of the reasons.”
This summer Larkin has helped Team USA win a bronze medal in the world championships in Denmark, run his own hockey school with his brother and cousins, participated in Dan Cleary’s hockey school, traveled to Toronto for a skills development camp and spearheaded a charity game in honor of the late Jim Johannson, the former USA Hockey assistant executive director.
“As the three years have gone, I think I’ve learned a ton,” Larkin said. “I think I’m a different person, I’m more mature. It’s something that I’ve grown up and the leadership part, I think I’ve learned from some of the best leaders in the game in Henrik Zetterberg and Nik Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Trevor Daley, these guys have groomed me into a position where I haven’t had to be anything I’m not. I just try to be myself and work hard and play the game that I love. I’m really lucky that there’s these guys around me that are such great leaders and such great people. It’s easy just to be yourself and I think for me, it’s natural in trying to do the right thing and work hard and show up and have as much fun as possible.
“I don’t think I try to be anything I’m not but I think as this five years goes on and I’ll be a Red Wing for eight years by the time this is done. I’m not looking that far ahead but I want to drive the bus and be that go-to guy that is a main cog that is going to turn us around and get us back in the playoffs and make noise in the playoffs and one day reach the ultimate goal.”
Update #3: Here’s a little more from the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Larkin is often the last player off the ice at practices. He’s known as a ‘rink rat’ for his penchant for always being near a sheet of ice, similar to Chris Chelios. Larkin already has emerged as a leader among the younger generation in the locker room.
“The leadership part is natural,” Larkin said. “As the three years have gone on, I’ve learned a ton. I’m more mature. I’ve grown up and in the leadership part, I’ve learned from some of the best in the game in Henrik Zetterberg, Nik Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader, Trevor Daley. These guys have groomed me into a position where I haven’t had to be anything I’m not — I just try to be myself and work hard and play the game that I love.”
Larkin doesn’t yet have a letter on the front of his sweater but that could change. The Wings are discouraged that Zetterberg’s back may prevent him from playing again, as he has not been able to train much this summer. If Zetterberg is unable to play again, the Wings could well opt to go without a captain next season, instead using alternates in Kronwall, Abdelkader, and, possibly, Larkin.
Of the team’s restricted free agents this summer — Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi and Martin Frk — only Larkin received more than a two-year commitment.
“They’re good young players and they’ve accomplished a fair amount, but they felt, we felt, there’s more to come, and that’s why you do a short-term deal,” Holland said. “I can’t pay on speculation.
“In Dylan’s case, he’s been here for three full seasons. He led our team in scoring. He’s been selected to play for USA the last two World Championships. Dylan’s resume is just a little more accomplished and that’s why we signed him to a longer-term contract.”
Update #4: Here’s a bit more from MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I’ll be a Red Wing for eight years by the time this is done,” Larkin said. “I’m not looking that far ahead, but I want to drive the bus and be that go-to guy that is a main cog that is going to turn us around and get us back in the playoffs and make noise in the playoffs and one day reach the ultimate goal.
“I feel really good about this contract. My family and myself, we feel very proud that they had this commitment in me.”
At 22, Larkin has established himself as the team’s best player and a leader on and off the ice.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland noted that captains Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman were cut from the same cloth in that they led by example. Larkin has shown similar qualities.
“When it was time to say something, they stood up and said what needed to be said, but for the most part they led by example and earned the respect of their teammates with the way they played the game and the way they practiced and their determination and passion for the game and for their team,” Holland said during a conference call. “I think early in his career, Dylan shows a lot of those intangibles. He hates to lose. He’s got a big motor and he’s always coming every shift, and he’s the same in practice.
“He’s obviously a really important young player for our organization for a variety of reasons. (His leadership) is one of the reasons. He’s a center iceman. If you’re going to be a good team you got to be good down the middle.”