Detroit — Dylan Larkin was back at Red Wings practice Monday after a weekend full of festivities at the All-Star Game.
The weather was warm in Sunrise, Fla., but Larkin didn’t get to enjoy it much, what with the game, the skills competition and various media availabilities.
And with those availabilities, and even in the locker room, there was talk about Larkin’s contract situation.
Specifically, the fact Larkin and the Red Wings still haven’t agreed to an extension, and with the NHL trade deadline on March 3 — if general manager Steve Yzerman were to explore trading Larkin — and unrestricted free agency on July 1.
“Everyone knows what’s going on around the league,” Larkin said, of talking with other players. “Guys are asking why it hasn’t got done yet, stuff like that.”
Larkin happened to talk to forward Bo Horvat, who was traded by Vancouver to the New York Islanders several days before the All-Star weekend. Horvat signed an eight-year contract Sunday worth $68 million ($8.5 million per year, cap hit).
To a degree, Horvat’s situation has mirrored Larkin’s. Horvat, the captain of the Canucks, wanted to remain in Vancouver, but the two sides never got close to a deal.
What Horvat eventually signed for with the Islanders is generally believed to be where Larkin’s negotiations could possibly wind up.
“Yes, I saw it,” Larkin said of Horvat’s signing and trade. “I got the chance to talk to him about it (during the All-Star weekend). Again, the personal side of it, it’s a life-changing thing. He’s moving across the country to a different country, west Coast to east Coast. New team. I saw what he signed for, and good for him. He is having a great year. He’s put the puck in the net (31 goals); he’s just produced.
“With all the attention and everything that’s been going on, the way he’s produced is very impressive.”
The midseason break in the schedule seemed to create a new round of Larkin contract stories, and the speculation built again.
With games starting up again, Larkin is thankful. It’s easier to play hockey and concentrate on the Wings getting back into the playoff chase, rather than being asked about a new contract.
“I know the fans are wondering,” Larkin said of a potential new contract. “But, you got to block it out. You think about it, but you have to block it out. You got to play. I felt the summer was worse, because there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t go out and play and work as hard as possible. It’s just nice to be able to play games and get in the routine.”
There’s a clear separation between Yzerman and management, and coach Derek Lalonde and his staff, and Lalonde is quick to point out he has nothing to do with contracts or negotiations. But, Lalonde has been impressed with how Larkin has been able to separate the off-ice business from the task at hand on the ice.
“If you would see me talk with Dylan or operate with Dylan, you wouldn’t even know he was in the last year of his contract,” Lalonde said.
Larkin was named the NHL’s Second Star for the week after scoring five goals (with one assist) in two games, while helping the Atlantic Division to the weekend championship. The five goals matched a single-tournament record, achieved by Tomas Hertl in 2020.
“It was a great experience,” said Larkin of the weekend. “It was a lot of fun. Any time you’re around guys like that and Sidney (Crosby) and Alex Ovechkin, it was really special. You’re just hanging out. Some of the best moments are just hanging out in the locker room, just catching up and talking. It was a great experience.”
Even being an NHL veteran in his own right, Larkin finds it special to spend time with current-day legends such as Crosby and Ovechkin and watching how they go about the weekend.
“Just how generous and nice those guys are,” Larkin said, of what stood out. “It’s a busy weekend for those guys signing a lot of autographs and taking their time to meet kids and people around the rink.
“Just being able to sit back and watch them and watch how they interact with each other too, it was pretty special. Just the respect everyone showed to everyone, it was pretty cool.”
Filip Hronek (upper-body injury) returned to practice Monday after leaving Sunday’s session early because of an injury. Hronek will be available to play Tuesday against Edmonton.
… Filip Zadina is likely to be a healthy scratch Tuesday, as Lalonde doesn’t want to upset the chemistry that was in the forward lines before the break. Lalonde sees the potential of a dangerous offensive player in Zadina.
“You see parts of what translates to skating, shooting,” Lalonde said. “It’s just a matter of him putting it all together. Hopefully, he’ll get that opportunity sooner than later, which he will.”
… Ville Husso will get the start in net.
Oilers at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Oilers (28-18-4) are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and are within three points of the Pacific Division lead. Connor McDavid (41 goals, 51 assists, 92 points) is on pace for roughly 150 points this season, and with C Leon Draisaitl (76 points) form the most dynamic duo in the NHL.