Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm (43) gets around Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77), of Sweden, during the first period of Game 7 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoff series Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (Photo: Chris O'Meara, Associated Press)
Deep into the NHL off-season, Helene St. James takes a look at individual Red Wings and assesses expectations for the coming season.
Today’s focal point: Forward Darren Helm
LOOKING AT 2014-15 PRODUCTION: 15 goals and 18 assists in 75 games; three assists in seven playoff games.
LOOKING AT MONEY: Salary of $2.5 million, cap hit of $2.125 million in last year of contract. Unrestricted free agent after the season.
LOOKING BACK: Helm, 28, reached career highs with 15 goals and 33 points, but equally satisfying for the Wings, Helm missed only seven games after three seasons of spending significant time injured. He was effective as a puck retriever for Pavel Datsyuk and was key to penalty killing, too. Helm’s speed always has been
his most effective tool, and after years of missing on great scoring chances, Helm’s hands finally caught up to his feet. To boot, he plays a clean game, averaging around a dozen penalty minutes a season.
LOOKING AHEAD: This is a big season for Helm — he’ll be eligible to get his first shot at the unrestricted free-agent market. It’s doubtful it ever gets that far, though, as the Wings will want to re-sign him because fast forwards with size and scoring ability are rare. Somewhere in the $4-million range should work.
Helm has worked his way up from bottom-six to top-six forward and should enter this season brimming with confidence after a productive and healthy year. He could find himself starting the year next to newcomer Brad Richards, which should allow for ample scoring opportunities. Helm is entering what is considered a hockey player’s prime, and few players aren’t a little bit more motivated when there’s a new contract at play, too.
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