So move players around. Also, players do improve from one year to the next. Allowing them to actually play helps them improve.
And a 32 year old second line center will put them over the top?
I believe Larkin and Athanasiou are future cornerstone centermen. At the same time, though, I don't think Larkin or Athanasiou is ready to play the kind of role that Frans Nielsen has been playing for years. This is a case where, in terms of pure positional primacy and experience, the tie truly ought to go to the vereran. Nielsen can be hard-matched against anyone in the league and hold his own. He can center a top PP unit and a top PK unit. He can start a lot of his shifts in the defensive zone -- against elite players -- and still find a way to drive possession in the right direction. He can win key faceoffs. These are things that Larkin and Athanasiou haven't proven they can do as top-six bus-driving NHL centermen. (Which, yeah, is kind of an unfair statement. But it is what it is.) Expecting them to do so, straight away, in 2016-17 helps neither the team nor the two players' respective development paths.