I think about Darren Helm a lot. I think about how much ice time he gets. I think about whether he’s a better player on the wing or at centre. I think about how good of a season he had last year. But mostly, I think about how he’s in the final year of his $2.125M AAV contract and will likely be demanding a raise.
But here’s the four million dollar question: is Darren Helm worth four million dollars a year? No. How about 3-3.5M? Yes, but probably not with the Wings.
Look – I know we all have a soft spot for Helmer. I certainly do. He’s a workhorse, one of our best penalty kill specialists, and has put up an average of 26 points per season. He’s also probably the most versatile player on the team, jumping everywhere from Datsyuk’s wing on the second line to centering a fourth line with Brad Richards on his side. He’s a guy who deserves to be playing top-9 minutes at his natural position.
But this begs the question: where exactly does Helm fit into this lineup going forward? It’s not in the top-6 as guys like Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, and Anthony Mantha play their way into the show. It’s not down the middle when you’ve got Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Sheahan, and Glendening each centering a line. So is he a bottom-6 winger? What about guys who keep getting scratched in a healthy lineup but who deserve a legitimate shot, like Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen? And then you’ve got more kids playing in Grand Rapids who will be knocking at the door of the Wings’ locker room soon enough.
Here’s what a healthy Red Wings lineup looks like without Darren Helm in the picture:
Justin Abdelkader – Henrik Zetterberg – Dylan Larkin
Antony Mantha – Pavel Datsyuk – Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Andreas Athanasiou
Teemu Pulkkinen – Luke Glendening – Tomas Jurco
I think it’s safe to assume that our top-9 are going to be our top-9 going forward unless management changes their mind about keeping Mantha up long-term. And even if they do, then Pulkkinen and Jurco are both guys who are worthy of top-9 minutes.
That leaves Helm as an alternate winger on the fourth line because we all know Blashill won’t move Glendening out of that centre position. Nor, in my opinion, should he, as Glendening leads the team in faceoff wins and defensive zone starts. But Darren Helm is too good of a hockey player to be remitted to Luke Glendening’s wing on the fourth line.
There is a team out there that will give Helm 4 years at $3.5M to play centre for their third line. He gives so much depth to a team’s offensive squad. Teams like Winnipeg and Ottawa come to mind. Or even St. Louis, since they’re likely losing Backes at the end of this season.
My point is this: I don’t want to pay Darren Helm $3.5M per year to play on the fourth line. If he’ll sign a 2-year, $3M contract, I’m all for it! But I don’t think Darren Helm will want that. At 29 years old, he knows what he’s worth and he’ll likely be looking for term (four years, probably), which Ken Holland should not offer him.
On a team that is going to be strapped for cash very soon, I’m not sure giving Helm a raise is the right thing to do. Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, Petr Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, and Teemu Pulkkinen are all on expiring contracts this year. Mrazek alone is going to demand a large increase and I think that DeKeyser deserves one as well. Not to mention that Tatar, Jurco, Smith, and Athanasiou are all up for extensions the year after. And with Larkin and Mantha looking like the next franchise players, their contracts won’t be cheap in 2018. Freeing up $9.5M in cap space, assuming we let Richards and Quincey walk too, is probably in the Wings’ best interest.
Needless to say, Kenny’s got his work cut out for him in the next couple of years.
It’s important to note that I don’t think parting ways with Helm is a bad thing for this team. Where we lose his defensive grit and persistence, we’ve got Glendening fill in. Where we lose his speed, we make up for in Athanasiou and Larkin. The future is bright with these kids, with Larkin leading the team in goals (21) and Athanasiou showing flashes of brilliance with the puck.
Darren Helm is a good hockey player full of heart, and I do believe he deserves a raise. Sadly, I don’t think he should get it with the Detroit Red Wings. With the youth movement currently underway, I just don’t think there will be room for him on the roster. He will make another team’s fan base very happy. I just hope it’s not in the Eastern Conference – I can’t keep thinking about Darren Helm.
What do you think? Should the Wings re-sign Darren Helm?