The Detroit Red Wings are working very hard to sign star center Dylan Larkin to a contract extension. Ultimately, it makes sense, as he is their captain and best forward. Yet, in a recent piece for The Fourth Period, David Pagnotta reported that the Red Wings and Larkin are “far apart in contract talks.” With the trade deadline less than two months away, this is very concerning, and Detroit will be forced to make a huge decision if things do not change on that front by March 3.
If Larkin is not signed to a new contract by then, the Red Wings will surely need to at least consider the prospect of trading him. After all, their playoff hopes are very low at the time of this writing, and they cannot afford to lose a player of his magnitude for nothing. Therefore, if the worst-case scenario does occur with the 2014 first-round pick, there’s a legitimate chance that we will see him traded. Let’s look at three potential landing spots for him if the Red Wings do in fact elect to shop him.
The Carolina Hurricanes stand out as a major landing spot for Larkin. After losing offseason departure Vincent Trocheck through free agency to the New York Rangers, the Hurricanes have yet to find a legitimate replacement for him at second-line center. Players such as Paul Stastny, Jordan Staal, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have surely had their good moments, but none of them truly work as second-line centers for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Therefore, adding a center like Larkin is essential for Carolina before the deadline.
If Larkin is dealt to the Hurricanes, he would surely have far more weapons to work with. As a result, we could see his already-strong offensive numbers (41 points in 43 games) improve. When looking at a potential role for Larkin, I could envision him being Carolina’s 2C on a line with Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas. There’s no question that this trio would have the potential to be lethal and would make the Hurricanes a far scarier contender in the process. Furthermore, Larkin’s strong two-way play would ensure that he would play on both their power play and penalty kill.
With the Hurricanes being in win-now mode, they would likely pay the Red Wings’ asking price to land a legitimate star like Larkin. Their 2023 first-round pick, 2023 second-round, top prospect Scott Morrow, and Jack Drury could be enough to make a deal go through. Morrow has been lighting up during his sophomore season, as the 20-year-old defenseman has 22 points in 23 games with UMass Amherst. As for Drury, he is a young center who has the tools to blossom into a middle-six forward later down the road.
Another clear potential landing spot for Larkin is the Colorado Avalanche. The reigning Stanley Cup champions have had an underwhelming season thus far, and that is primarily due to the abundance of injuries that they have suffered. Yet, even as they get healthier, it is clear that their center group could use a significant boost. After all, the Avalanche lost Nazem Kadri to the Calgary Flames through free agency and have had trouble replacing him in the 2C role. Acquiring Larkin, of course, would be a perfect way to remedy this situation.
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When fully healthy, the Avalanche still have a very impressive forward group, but adding Larkin to it could make them truly lethal again. At this juncture, J.T. Compher is the team’s second-line center and although he has certainly performed well this campaign (nine goals and 29 points in 44 games), Larkin would provide them with another star in their top six. A trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Larkin, and Compher done the middle should certainly be enough to help the Avalanche’s chances of repeating as champions, so they surely should make a push to acquire the Michigan native.
Along with their 2023 first-round pick and 2025 second-round pick, the Red Wings would likely want prospects Oskar Olausson and Sean Behrens from the Avalanche in any blockbuster centering around Larkin. Olausson, who is a former first-round pick, has the tools to blossom into a top-six winger in the NHL later down the road. In 34 games with the Colorado Eagles this campaign, he has nine goals and 16 points. As for Behrens, the 5-foot-10 defenseman is in his second season with the University of Denver, where he has two goals and 14 points in 20 contests.
In a recent piece for Daily Faceoff, NHL insider Frank Seravalli argued that the Minnesota Wild’s primary objective should be to add a first-line center before the trade deadline passes. It is quite easy to understand why this is the case, as although they are a solid team, their center depth lacks any true star power. If the Wild want to compete with the Western Conference’s top teams, this is something they absolutely need to change.
At the time of this writing, offseason signing Sam Steel is the club’s first-line center. After years of struggling to reach his potential with the Anaheim Ducks, the 24-year-old has taken a notable step in the right direction this campaign, as he has eight goals and 22 points in 44 games. It has been great to see the former first-rounder find success with the Wild, but it is also clear that Larkin would be a significant upgrade over him as their 1C. A first line of Larkin, Kirill Kaprizov, and Mats Zuccarello would be stacked and could help the Wild’s chances of making a legitimate run this postseason.
The Red Wings would likely want the Wild’s 2023 first-round pick, Carson Lambos, and Marat Khusnutdinov in a Larkin trade. Lambos has all the tools to become a top-four defenseman in the NHL later down the road, so he certainly should grab the interest of Detroit. In 31 games this season with the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he has 27 points. As for Khusnutdinov, he is having a strong season with St. Petersburg SKA, as the 20-year-old center has nine goals and 29 points in 52 contests.
Although the primary objective for general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman should still be to extend Larkin, it is clear that they have other options to work with if they are forced to trade him at the deadline. If the Red Wings have no choice but to shop Larkin, don’t be surprised in the slightest to see these three clubs make a major push to acquire him before the deadline passes.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.