Red Wings Would Be Crazy to Trade Dylan Larkin

The Hockey Writers

Earlier this week, I suggested that the Detroit Red Wings should consider the trade market as a way to maximize the value of their depth. One player who shouldn’t be dealt, though, is Dylan Larkin.

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Now in the final year of his contract, there’s been an unfortunate amount of content suggesting that the Red Wings should trade Larkin before it’s too late. I’m here to squash this discourse once and for all.

The Case for Trading Larkin

Two main factors are cited when discussing the merits of a Larkin trade: his UFA status and the potential return.

It’s no secret that Larkin will be a free agent after the 2022-23 season. He’s eligible to sign an extension at any time, but hasn’t done so yet. 

Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings
Hockeytown is (im)patiently waiting for Dylan Larkin’s contract extension to be announced. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Historically, the Red Wings have dealt pending UFAs for picks and prospects to bolster their rebuild. The logic here is to continue doing so – trade Larkin and recoup assets instead of (possibly) letting him walk for nothing.

Larkin is a solid 1C and would give any acquiring team an outstanding one-two punch down the middle. Because of this, it’s reasonable to expect a massive return for the center. Proponents of trading Larkin argue that the picks and prospects coming back to the Red Wings are worth the heartburn of trading their captain. 

The Case Against Trading Larkin

If Detroit trades Larkin, it would set the franchise back in a variety of ways. 

First and foremost, the Red Wings would be trading away a 1C – arguably the most important component of a contending team. Larkin is, by most statistical measures, an all-situations, first-line center. Those are hard to come by.

Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin
Trading Dylan Larkin would be a step in the wrong direction for the Detroit Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now, it can be argued that the return in a Larkin trade would make up for the bump in the road – that the picks, prospects, and young roster players—plus the improved draft position stemming from Detroit’s likely collapse thereafter—would be worth it. That’s a fair assumption. My rebuttal, though, is that this notion is far from guaranteed.

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Just look at the Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly trades. Neither deal brought the Buffalo Sabres another 1C. Sure, solid players and draft picks were included in the return, but none with the potential to match Eichel or O’Reilly’s value. Which would you prefer – a young 1C or a mystery box (with the hope that there’s a 1C in the mystery box)?

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Finally, Larkin’s impact on the franchise cannot be denied. He truly embodies the Red Wings’ organizational culture – the same winning, selfless attitude that has been passed down from Steve Yzerman to Nicklas Lidstrom to Henrik Zetterberg and now to Larkin. Trading him says that this culture is no longer important, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Oh, and you’re not going to find very many NHLers with the commitment and drive to make this play:

Verdict: Red Wings Should Keep Larkin

In essence, trading Larkin would reset the rebuild. Sure, there’s young talent in place—Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson, and the like—but it would be a step back on what’s been a linear path forward since Yzerman took over.

Larkin is the heart-and-soul face of the franchise and embodies Detroit’s organizational culture. He’s also a bonafide first-line center. The Red Wings need him. 

Next: Projecting Dylan Larkin’s New Red Wings Contract

A contract is coming – these things just take time, especially with talk of the salary cap potentially rising in the near future. Trading Larkin would resolve a short-term concern, but would also create a long-term issue. So let’s put this Larkin trade talk to rest – he’s the future of Hockeytown, after all.

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