Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin builds All-Star season as contract speculation swirls

Detroit News

Detroit — The speculation is endless on social media, from all corners of the globe, from Red Wings fans and NHL rumor spreaders alike.

Everyone loves to tweet about Dylan Larkin’s contract situation. The fact Larkin hasn’t yet signed a contract extension with the Red Wings beyond this season.

So, the questions arise about whether Larkin will remain with the Wings beyond this season. And can Larkin’s representatives and general manager Steve Yzerman eventually work out a contract?

People on social media have opinions. Thoughts on all of this will end up there. But Larkin, to his credit and personal sanity, doesn’t read them.

“The biggest part is probably keeping off social media,” Larkin said of separating what is being talked about and actually playing the game he loves. “It’s just a place where, really, people say whatever they can and not show their face or name or anything associated to it. It’s not really a valid source of information. There are certain people you can pay attention to, like the members of the media, but I don’t really read it too much, and I try not to let it affect me.

“The good part about playing and being in the season is you get easily distracted by playing hockey games, which matters most.”

Larkin has done a good enough job separating the chatter and the playing, to the point where he was selected for his third All-Star Game this weekend in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers.

Larkin is having another formidable season, having adjusted well to a new coaching staff headed by Derek Lalonde, and an upgraded roster bolstered by Yzerman’s summer acquisitions.

Larkin leads the Wings with 43 points and 28 assists and is tied with Lucas Raymond for the team lead in goals with 15. By any measure, it’s been an impressive season.

“I guess it’s gone all right, personally,” said Larkin, sheepish talking about himself, as is usually the case. “I got injured for a little bit (hand), and that was kind of tough to manage and play through, but I just tried to play and felt that was the most important part. I care about the team and care about us doing well.

“I’d like us to be in a better position (in the standings) right now, and there’s still time and there’s hope in our locker room that we can get there.”

Still, the contract issue is going to linger.

The March 3 trade deadline approaches by the day, but few people truly suspect Yzerman would trade Larkin, still only 26, to get assets in return. Very likely, the negotiations between the Wings and Larkin’s camp will extend until close to the start of unrestricted free agency on July 1, given Yzerman’s steadfastness in certain negotiations with key players on his roster, especially during Yzerman’s time in managing Tampa Bay.

Larkin insists the negotiations to this point have not bothered him.

“Not at all,” Larkin said. “I just try to show up to the rink every day and just be myself and play the game hard. I try to look at it as I let it my agent do it and it is what it is at this point.”

Admittedly, this has dragged on longer than Larkin, and probably many Red Wings’ watchers, have expected.

“Yeah, but it’s nothing anyone can do about it,” Larkin said. “At least on my view of things.

“I’ve been trying to just focus on playing. There’s speculation of what is going on but there’s not really much going on. People are saying stuff but it’s not really truthful.”

Larkin’s representatives and the Wings likely have agreed on a term for a new contract, reportedly the maximum eight years. It’s where the financials get tricky. Reportedly, Larkin’s reps are seeking closer to $9 million per season, while the Wings want to keep the number closer to $8 million.

Thus far, the two sides haven’t been able to bridge the gap.

Lalonde, who didn’t know Larkin well when taking over as the Wings’ head coach, has been impressed with the way Larkin deals with things on and off the ice.

Lalonde was adamant about all the Wings’ players managing their games better, reducing risk on the ice, and stressing defensive play.

Larkin has improved on the defensive end, while not losing any of his offensive effectiveness.

“I like Dylan the player, like Dylan the human being,” Lalonde said. “Just like everyone else, we’re trying to grow our game, we’re managing our game and he’s done that. You guys have seen him a lot, and analytically his turnovers are down, he manages his game better, his underlying number are better.

“I’m not worried about him with the puck. We’ve grown a little bit in a lot of areas and he’s been a driving force of it.”

Lalonde had conversations with Larkin last summer in terms of expectations, and leadership, and the different looking roster and new coaching staff.

“Just a new coach and the captain of the team, and a new leadership core which is unique with some of these free agents coming in being part of that leadership core,” Lalonde said. “We’re still growing that, but it’s all positive.”

David Perron was one of those free agents signed last summer, a former Stanley Cup winner in St. Louis, and the veteran forward was impressed right out of training camp with how Larkin leads the Wings.

“Impressed with how well he takes care of every individual, not only on the team but in the organization,” Perron said. “He talks to everyone, is supernice, trying to include everyone. That’s something a leader needs to have.”

Larkin, for his part, said day-to-day communication with Yzerman has been normal and productive, as usual.

“It has been really good,” Larkin said. “It doesn’t seem like there are any hard feelings. We’ve had a lot of conversations about the team and certain things that come up during a season and it’s been pretty status quo with Steve.”

Yzerman, for his part, has been consistent in his years with Tampa and now returning to the Wings: He doesn’t comment on contract negotiations.

At this juncture of the season, Larkin wants to convince Yzerman and the front office to keep this Wings’ roster together and give it a chance to make the playoffs with a final push before the regular season concludes.

The key to make that final push, Larkin said, is for the Wings to become more consistent than they’ve been and go on a prolonged win streak, something they simply haven’t done enough yet this season.

“It’s coming up (trade deadline) and I know it’s a difficult time, but we still have time to try and find a way to get in it (playoff race) and stay in it,” Larkin said. “For us it’s just stringing them (victories) together. We have to do that. It’s kind of been the story of our season — we’ve won two and lost two, we win three and lose one — we just haven’t gained traction.

“We’re finally in a spot that we’ve felt mostly healthy and it’s really felt like the guys in the room, we’re in the battle and we’ve kind of really became close. We just need to get on that run and we knew we can do it.”

NHL All-Star weekend

▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, All-Star Skills Competition; 3 p.m. Saturday, All-Star Game, at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida

▶ TV: Friday, ESPN; Saturday, ABC

▶ Outlook: C Dylan Larkin is the lone Red Wings’ representative.. The skills competitions will include events with a South Florida influence, along with classics like fastest skater, hardest shot and breakaway challenge. … The All-Star Game features a 3-on-3 tournament between 11-player teams representing the league’s four divisions.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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