Under Pressure: Dylan Larkin

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.

It was kind of rude of Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, honestly.

Holland couldn’t be bothered to wait one day to sign Dylan Larkin to a six-year, $30.5 million contract, so it would fall on PHT’s Red Wings day? That’s downright uncouth.

[Looking back at 2017-18 | Questions surround Henrik Zetterberg’s health]

All kidding aside, the contract is friendly to both Larkin and the Red Wings. The 22-year-old lands a fair price for his services, while Detroit locks him up for the majority of his prime years. Not bad.

When it comes to gauging the temperature of Hockey Twitter, it’s often most fascinating to absorb the reactions to a player like Larkin. This isn’t a case of a unanimously praised or scorned deal.

Personally, Larkin seemed to me to be the type of player you’d want to sign long-term, even beyond the simple facts that he’s one of Detroit’s best players, he can skate like the wind, and he’s very young. The fancy comparisons get interesting.

When you look at his impact on the transition game, Larkin really checks out, which probably shouldn’t be shocking considering his great wheels and hockey IQ.

That said, when you’re emerging as one of the faces of your franchise – and drawing the sort of dollars that come with that – you’re going to face harsher scrutiny. Apparently Larkin doesn’t necessarily ace every test?

Naturally, the greatest pressure won’t come from people quibbling over WAR stats, which still seem to be in a gestation period as far as hockey analytics go.

His greatest pressure will come in being asked to help restore the Red Wings to the long-held lofty status they saw not long ago. Such a thought comes to mind when you consider that the team acknowledged Henrik Zetterberg‘s cloudy health situation on the same day that Larkin’s big deal was announced.

Even if Zetterberg plays much of the 2018-19 season, you don’t really need to dig too deep to realize that the torch has either been passed, or it will be very soon. With that, comes the spotlight, and if the Red Wings rebuild stalls out on the highway, scorn will accompany that added attention.

Larkin isn’t oblivious to the pressure that comes with his new contract, if nothing else.

“I think with this, there’s definitely a pressure,” Larkin said, via Dana Wakiji of the team website. “But I think it comes from within. I want to earn this and make the team proud. I want this to be something that they look back and they say that they made the right move to sign me to five years. There’s a bit of pressure there but it’s still the game that I love and I can’t wait to start up. Now I want to win and get the fans back, make them happy and get back in the playoffs.”

The longer it takes for the Red Wings to return to form – and it could take quite some time – the heavier the weight will be on Larkin’s shoulders.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.