Filling a need during the offseason is no small feat. Whether you head to free agency or take your bets at the trade table, every move is a gamble. Currently, the New York Rangers have a need for a top-six centre. The Athletic contributor Shayna Goldman (one of my favourite contributors) recently published a piece on potential centre candidates for the Rangers. Among them lay Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin. While the possibility of a Dylan Larkin trade may infuriate some, others may find solace, believing that Larkin is not the answer to the Red Wings’ top line.
What a Dylan Larkin Trade Looks Like
If the Rangers hope to acquire a shifty two-way centre like Larkin, they’ll likely need to pay up. Earlier this offseason, discourse arose on a potential Tyler Bertuzzi trade. While the efforts never came into fruition for the Toronto Maple Leafs, many leaped at the opportunity to formulate trades of their own making, going as far as suggesting that Travis Dermott was fair value in exchange. If fans believed the price for Bertuzzi was high, they’ve got another thing coming with a Larkin trade. The Red Wings made Larkin captain a little over a year ago. Trading him would invite a veritable avalanche of questions and think-pieces. The sheer amount of chaos from the media alone may deter Yzerman — but, if the right offer appears, it may offer an intriguing return.
How Larkin Helps the Rangers
To say that Larkin has been the best Red Wings player since his draft year has been an understatement. For better or worse, Larkin has consistently arrived at or near the top of the rankings in goals, assists, points, takeaways, and defensive metrics. He’s as fast as he is smart, combining skill, intellect, and awareness as a strong two-way player. Larkin still holds the record for the fastest skater in the NHL with a rink lap of 13.172 seconds. His two-way play and offensive awareness would make him a highly coveted asset on the trade market. The Rangers have been on the hunt for a top-six centre for a very long time. With a one-two punch of Larkin and Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers would be a fearsome front on both ends of the ice. When paired with players like Artemi Panarin or Chris Kreider, Larkin has the chance to more than excel in his role as a top-six center.
The Pros and Cons of a Dylan Larkin Trade
Trading Larkin would immediately put the Red Wings in a state of uncertainty. Without a top-line centre, the team would have to rely on Pius Suter or Michael Rasmussen to handle Larkin’s workload on the first line. With no Larkin to man two-way duties, the Red Wings could potentially plummet lower than the sixth-worst goal differential they earned last season. While high-potential centres like Shane Wright and Connor Bedard could become available in coming drafts, it’s important to note that the Red Wings have dropped draft positions in nearly every year since their rebuild began in 2016. Placing hopes on draft luck is a one-way ticket to Uncertainty Island.
On the other hand, the return of a Larkin trade could bring a slew of picks, prospects, and players. Currently, the Red Wings are in desperate need of high-end talent on just about every front. Having said that, obtaining a player like Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko is an impossible ask. There’s absolutely zero chance either of those players are traded unless a Jack Eichel-caliber player goes the other way. With that in mind, what would be a fair return for Larkin?
The Return on a Dylan Larkin Trade
The Red Wings could elect two routes on this front: draft capital or prospects and players. Both offer unique strategies in their own right, with one showing a more immediate return than the other. It needs to be emphasized, however, that there is zero pressure to trade Larkin. When a player is seen as a key member of a team and isn’t on the trade block, the team can set the price at whatever they’d like. While you won’t see Larkin going for four 1st-round picks, you could make a case that Yzerman’s counteroffer would still force the Rangers to overpay.
The Rangers have a fairly solid group of players at their disposal. Two, in particular, could feel right at home in Hockeytown: Filip Chytil and K’Andre Miller. Both are young, cost-controlled players ready to take their next step. Chytil, a 22-year-old centre, could hypothetically fill in for Larkin on the top line until a top-end centre is obtained. Miller would slot right in on the team’s second defensive pairing. A defensive core of Filip Hronek, Miller, Moritz Seider, and, eventually, Simon Edvinsson would spark excitement in the hearts of nearly every Red Wings fan.
From an outsider’s perspective, a package of Chytil, Miller, and draft picks may seem like an overpayment. They would be correct — it is an overpayment. It must be emphasized again that Yzerman is under absolutely zero pressure to trade Larkin. The cards are all in the Red Wings’ hands on this one. If the Rangers need help at centre and don’t want to overpay, Tomas Hertl may be a much more appealing candidate. Centres are a premium in the NHL; team captains come at an even higher price.
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