Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin begins this week with an honor and a challenge — and growing questions.
He was named one of the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week that ended Monday, the result of a highly productive and entertaining time at the All-Star Game. Tuesday brings the unique challenge of going up against Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid.
Larkin just rubbed shoulders with McDavid at last weekend’s All-Star festivities, where Larkin scored five goals and had an assist in the two three-on-three games the Atlantic Division played to claim the 2023 title. Another guy at the event in Florida was Bo Horvat, who just days earlier had been traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Islanders, where Horvat proceeded to sign an eight-year, $68 million extension.
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“I see what he signed for,” Larkin said. “Good for him, he’s had a great year. He’s produced.”
Horvat’s extension is of interest because Larkin is in the last year of his deal, with unrestricted free agency on the horizon. Horvat, 27, has topped 20 goals four times in his career and has topped 30 goals this season and last year. Larkin, 26, recorded his second career 30-goal season last year.
Larkin — 15 goals and 43 points in 47 games this season — said he parried questions about the state of his contract talks from fellow All-Stars. The Wings have offered Larkin eight years, $64 million — and Horvat’s contract puts that offer in a good light, given Horvat has been a more productive player in his career.
Larkin, who changed agents last May, said he waits to hear from his representation regarding negotiations with general manager Steve Yzerman, rather than the other way around. “I think the less you hear, the better,” Larkin said. “You want to play. Everyone knows what is going on around the league and guys are asking why it hasn’t been done yet, stuff like that.
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“I do have to say that I know you guys have your job to do, but you guys have been very respectful, and let me be at times. I know the fans are wondering. But you have to block it out. You think about it, but you have to block it out. You have to play.”
On that subject, Larkin spoke with reverence of facing McDavid, whose 41 goals this season are three below his career season high and help put him on pace for what would be his sixth 100-point season.
“Where he is at, it’s unlike everyone I’ve ever played against,” Larkin said. “The game almost slows down and people start watching him just to see what he is going to do. You have to stay tight to him and make it hard when he is trying to wind it up and get separation.”
McDavid, who won fastest skater at the NHL All-Star weekend consecutively from 2017-19, is as elusive as they come. Asked how to defend against him, Wings coach Derek Lalonde revealed all that it will take: “Just be above him. He’s going to create offense, but be above him, check him. Time and space on entries. Being above and taking away some time and space.
“And cross your fingers.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.
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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.