2012-13 Detroit Red Wings Pro/No: Darren Helm

Helm skates so fast that sometimes he has a tendency to lift off.

As our joint venture with The Production Line carries on, today we look at the case for and against Darren Helm while going down the list of pending free agents and whether the fans think Detroit should bring them back into the fold.

Here's the background info for this season:

The Detroit Red Wings currently have 18 players under contract for the 2012-23 season with $44M committed to that group. While this is a CBA year and we can't be sure, we're assuming that the Wings will bring $20M in cap space to the bargaining table looking for a two forwards (including one top six forward), two defensemen, and a backup goaltender.

With that in mind, we'll start off with a guy who'll compete for one of those forward spots. Follow after the jump for the breakdown on Darren Helm.

THE VITALS
Darren Helm, Forward #43
25 Years Old (January 21, 1987)
5'11", 192 lbs
3 Full NHL Seasons (248 NHL regular season games played) - All with Detroit
Born in St. Andrews, Manitoba; Drafted 132nd overall in 2005

STATISTICS
Regular Season - 68 games played, 9 goals, 17 assists, 12 PIM, +5, 14:30 TOI per game.
Playoffs - 3 minutes played, suffered lacerated tendon in wrist.

CONTRACT SITUATION
Darren Helm is 25 years old and made $1M last season in his first non-entry-level deal. He will remain a restricted free agent this summer, meaning that the Red Wings will have the option of matching any deal offered him or the option of receiving compensation from the signing club (see the Salary Range section for more details). His $1M salary and NHL history means that the Red Wings will have to tender him a one-way offer worth at least $1M in order to keep his rights as a restricted free agent. He is free to sign a contract of any length, but the most-likely scenario would be a two-year deal which would expire at the same time as his eligibility for restricted free agency expires.

DEPTH SITUATION
Darren Helm is a team's prototypical third line penalty-killing center. He would likely not have to compete for this spot with the Red Wings or with just about any team in the league. A few exceptions may want to experiment with moving him to a wing or up to the 2nd line on some clubs.

CASE FOR HELM
1) Helm is the fastest skater on a team where speed seemed to be an issue for them at times. This kind of speed is useful for both neutralizing threats and for creating them himself.
2) As an offshoot of his speed, but also as an offshoot of his better-than-average puck handling, Helm draws a lot of penalties. His penalties drawn-to-taken ratio is among the best in the league.
3) Helm is happy to take tough assignments and is known as one of the hardest workers on the ice. His penalty killing has made him a fan favorite around Detroit. His regular season numbers this year compare very favorably to Kris Draper's numbers from the 2007-08 season.

CASE AGAINST HELM
1) For being well-liked for his penalty killing, the numbers haven't supported that as well over the last two seasons, where Detroit has been in the lower half of the league. While you can't pin a struggling PK all on one person, it's just as irresponsible to give one guy a break over all of his teammates, especially when his numbers may not indicate that's warranted.
2) Helm's got less finish on him than a primer-colored junker. For all of the chances he creates and offense he drives, his career 6.4% shooting is awful. Since a decent number of these chances are breakaways, there's not a great deal of secondary chances coming off his stick.
3) Helm is on the smallish side and plays a physical game. He's already had a few injuries as a result of this style (shoulder and knee). He's also coming off a severed tendon in his forearm. While a complete recovery is possible, it's not guaranteed. Injuries could derail everything about him that makes him effective (though that's true of everybody). He's also seen the new Batman movie and keeps spoiling it for everybody who will listen.

WHAT HE'S SAYING
Both Holland and Helm are talking about having him around for Red Wings' training camp. The local Detroit press discusses his return as a foregone conclusion, just that numbers have to be agreed upon. Neither Helm nor his agent have given any indication of playing hardball with the team.

SALARY RANGE
Helm is definitely going to get a raise from his $1M salary. Making some assumptions about the status of the cap and RFA compensation limits, the Wings aren't likely to get Helm for less than $1.13M at least, as that's a projected limit of where draft pick compensation would kick in. If his agent plays a bit of hardball, he could get in the $1.7M range (assuming a $70M salary cap), as that's close to the limit of a 3rd-round pick. If a team wants to chance losing a 2nd-rounder for Darren Helm, you could see an offer sheet for an amount above $1.7M (but less than the $3.3M where the next tier would kick in). I would start kicking things around at the $1.5M range and expect to say somewhat close to that.

(as a note on the compensation limits, they're based on the 2011-12 limits calculated as a percentage of the $64.3M cap and then worked out to the same percentage of a $70.3M cap. These numbers are all estimates and should only be used for the sake of discussion, not to be used as though they are official.)

POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS

Internal :: Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are both capable NHL-ready centers (although Nyquist played the wing with Detroit this season). Joakim Andersson is another center who is much more used to the third line checking role that Helm represents. Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, and Drew Miller are players which might come from the active roster and slide up into the existing slot, although I'd call Miller the long-shot of that bunch.
External :: If the Wings want to get older and pricier, but for a decent chance at improving at the position for the short-term, Jarret Stoll, Jason Arnott, and Sami Pahlsson are available this offseason. Jay McClement, Adam Burish, and Gregory Campbell may be ready to take on a full-time third line role as well.

WHAT DO YOU THINK
Please use the form below to give us your take on whether the Wings should try to get Darren Helm back at a reasonable rate. Then, sound off in the comments with your thoughts. Is Helm still an overwhelming fan favorite? Did you even read this post before voting? Voting will stay open for 48 hours. Thanks!

Voting is now closed. Thank you for your input and stay tuned for the rest of the series!

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