The Red Wings and their GM Ken Holland have long been criticized for the team's long-term contracts to players, but this one makes a lot of sense. The team announced Friday that star center Dylan Larkin has been given a five-year extension worth a reported $30.5 million ($6.1 million average annual value), per The Athletic's Craig Custance.
Larkin, 22, burst onto the scene in the 2015 season with 45 points as a rookie, 23 of them coming as goals. He was a restricted free agent this offseason.
Last season, Larkin settled into a more traditional center role. After a bit of a sophomore slump in 2016, he played all 82 games in 2017, picking up a career-high 63 points on 47 assists. Though the Red Wings have continued to struggle in recent years, any future that the team has is going to go through Larkin, who is waiting to take the reigns from 15-year center Henrik Zetterberg as the first-line center.
Zetterberg hasn't committed to returning to the Red Wings for the upcoming season, saying that it will depend on his health, so that could come sooner than later. Zetterberg, who has been the Wings' captain for the past six seasons, may end up conceding the "C" to either Justin Abdelkader (who was signed to a seven-year contract prior to the 2016 season and became an assistant captain the same year) or Niklas Kronwall, who's been an alternate captain since 2011.
With that being said, this team will be Larkin's in the near future. He's evolving into a leader for the Red Wings, and now he's locked up until 2023 -- tied for the longest commitment on the team with Abdelkader. Once he gets onto the first line, which could be at some point next season whether Zetterberg returns or not, the Wings will see how good this investment is. However, Larkin has shown flashes of brilliance early in his still-young career, so for now they're putting faith in him.