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Darren Helm’s No-Trade Clause with the Red Wings is Weird

Five years with a NTC for a 29-year old is a bit much, but the way the clause is written does give some options

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

File this under stuff that got overlooked, but we recently had Darren Helm’s no-trade clause pointed out to us and I wanted to make sure to go over it, because this one is kind of weird, just like Justin Abdelkader’s. I spoke with both Capfriendly and General Fanager to confirm details and here is how it breaks down.

  • Darren Helm’s NTC kicks in immediately and goes through the first three seasons of the deal (through 2018-19) with no modification. Only Helm waiving this clause would allow him to be traded.
  • If the Red Wings miss the playoffs in the 2018-19 season OR if Helm isn’t among the top 9 forwards on the team in terms of total ice time, then he will have no NTC protection between June 15th of 2019 and the trade deadline of the 2019-20 season (Year four of the deal).
  • If the Red Wings miss the playoffs in the 2019-20 season OR if Helm isn’t among the top 9 forwards in terms of TOI, then his NTC is void from June 15, 2020 throughout the remainder of the contract (June 30, 2021).

ICYMI, Abdelkader’s NTC works the exact same way, except the modifications kick in for the final three seasons.

As far as NTCs go, these work differently than most. Many of the modifications made to NTCs involve making the player provide either a restricted or permitted list of teams involved in a trade. By tying this to the Wings making/missing the playoffs or Helm’s usage on the team, it gives the Red Wings more flexibility once a trade is decided (since a player with a permitted list can pretty much limit them to only dealing with clubs who probably wouldn’t want him anyway), but I feel it’s overall more restrictive on the team than those kinds of deals.

For one, Darren Helm’s cap hit is $3.85M. While the Wings missing the playoffs three years from now is definitely a possibility, if the Wings want to trade Helm based on him losing his position in the team’s top nine, then they’re working on trying to trade a fourth line player with a cap hit entirely out of line with what fourth liners generally make. Whether Helm’s minutes are held back by deployment or injury, it makes it a much tougher sale to dump the salary of a guy you’re not showcasing.

The bright side to the weird conditions on the last years of the Helm (and Abdelkader) NTC is that those are the years where his salary will only be $3M in real dollars. We’ve already seen teams specifically buying up contracts with dead space on them like this, so it’s possible that a budget team might be willing to give at least something up for a useful player who does more than his fair share of taking up cap room against the floor, even if it is just a mere $850K. There’s also the potential for Detroit to retain salary.

Another consideration to this is that this clause is strictly no-trade and does not have a no-movement consideration to it. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Helm is protected in the upcoming Las Vegas expansion draft, the Red Wings will not be required to do so, either in that draft or a potential upcoming Quebec City expansion draft that’s likely to happen during the term of the Helm contract. Helm’s lack of NMC also means he won’t have any protection against the team putting him on waivers for another team to claim or for the purpose of assigning him to Grand Rapids if need be.

The best possible scenario for the Red Wings is that Helm is worth much more than his cap hit and roster spot all five years of this deal, but if it does come to needing to move him out, Ken Holland gave him an interesting no-trade clause which could limit the team’s ability to shed salary down the line.

Thanks again to both Capfriendly and General Fanager for keeping info like this for us.