Helm Re-Up Bad News For Younger Wing Forwards

Look, we all have done it, we all do it, and we all will continue to do it.  We look around our individual workplaces and judge how others are perceived in comparison to us.  Now, that’s not necessarily rooting against others (unless they’re utterly incompetent and evil incarnate), but you certainly can play the big picture “assessment” game.

No one would blame several Detroit Red Wings forwards, most of whom are under the age of 25, for doing just that with the re-inking of Darren Helm at $3.85 million per year over a 5 year term.  Until Helm is nearly 36 years old.  Until a year after the Jonathan Ericsson contract ends.  After four years in (gulp) Little Caesars Arena, and until Ken Holland is 66 years old.

The move shouldn’t surprise us, although if you’d told me multiple teams would be willing to give Helm a 5-season commitment when the Wings season ended, I’d have never believed it, but knowing how leverage works, they simply must have been — either that, or it’s a fantastic job of “agent-ing” by Helm’s representative.

The Red Wings are considered loyal by some, stubborn by others.  Applauded on one side for continuing to spend to the salary cap and never take their eyes off the prize that is playoff contention.  They want to “get there” and “see what happens” when they do, but lately all that’s been happening is jump shots swatted into the tenth row of the stands at an NBA game.  

But Helm probably helps them in their pursuit next season, and he has dressed in 70+ games the past two seasons, albeit having his worst puck-possession numbers last year since 2009-10.  

Who this isn’t good news for though is any number of Red Wings who simply need to play more.  Take their Game 5 1-0 elimination in Tampa back on April 21st.  While Helm played a reasonable 13+ minutes, Anthony Mantha was in Grand Rapids, after doing effective late-season work just to squeak the Wings into their 25th straight postseason, and Andreas Athanasiou was playing only five minutes of hockey in a game the Red Wings didn’t score in, and Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were watching from the press box. 

Yes, thanks, I agree, Helm’s strengths aren’t similar, really, to the players I mentioned.  He kills penalties, nowhere near the effectiveness of Kris Draper or Kirk Maltby a decade before, but his nearly-eleven minutes of even strength time in that elimination game while a more offensively-gifted player barely plays, two others are in the press box, and a potential future first-liner is waiting for the AHL playoffs to start is symptomatic of a team unwilling to turn the page and move from veterans to younger players.  

The screams from fans about Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and even Tomas Holmstrom during his final season were valid.  Older players were eating up time younger players should have been getting.  The Helm signing may mean more of the same is ahead.