Darren Helm has been battling back issues for a while now. Helm made a brief return last season with the Red Wings raising hope that he would be able to go for the rest of the season, but was taken off the roster immediately after only one game in a Wings sweater. Helm anchors the Red Wings third line, and is an excellent penalty killer. His speed opens up the ice for the rest of the team, and he can make plays. He creates opportunities for himself and players around him, and only has issues finishing by scoring goals.
Helm’s health is an important piece to the Red Wings who found themselves banged up for most of the season last year. If Helm is ready to go for the beginning of the season, that opens the door for general manager, Ken Holland to explore even more trade opportunities with his over-sized roster. The Wing are over the roster limit and have a large amount of forwards that are expandable.
If Helm can get healthy and begin playing again with the Wings, that means Holland has an opportunity to trade Cory Emmerton, who right now will be the fourth line center. The Wings have an overabundance of third and fourth line centers who are more than capable of killing penalties. With a healthy Helm it opens the door for the Wings to explore trading centers rather than only being able to deal a winger at the moment.
The depth at the center position is something the Wings have always found worth while, and it’s easy to see why. If a winger is hurt, a center can step in and help out when needed, however, if a center is hurt and there are only wingers to step in, it could cause a problem for a fourth line, who spends a large amount of time in their own defensive zone, and could leave coach Mike Babcock handcuffed to only using his top three lines when the draw is being taken in the defensive zone. After all, there’s nothing more dangerous than losing the face-off in your own zone. That means giving the other team control of the puck in the offensive zone, with a full line that is rested and ready to do some damage.
Helm skated today, but admitted he was not 100% pain free just yet. The pain has seemingly come and gone for Helm which is an issue knowing that one day he may be fine, and the next he may not be ready to go. Helm’s health is extremely important to the Red Wings right now, because they need to make a move and they need to do it soon to cut down the size of the roster. Helm has them tied up at the moment, leaving them only a handful of trade options, and the handful of trade options they do have will be very difficult to move, due to trade clauses, and large salary cap hits.
Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi both saw limited ice time last season due to injury, and when they returned still didn’t find themselves suiting up for every game due to the abundance of young players the Wings have in the system that seem to be NHL ready. Drew Miller just signed a three year contract, which means the Wings will probably not be looking to move him, but Patrick Eaves is entering the final season of his contract, and could be an interesting player for the Red Wings to look to move before the start of the season. Eaves may be the best bet for the Red Wings in the long run, his low salary, and his ability to play well with the limited ice time he’s given could suit a team well in the long run.
Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Joakim Andersson all proved to be more than capable to play at the NHL level last season, but all of them are going to be battling for a roster spot due to the amount of forwards the Red Wings have signed at the moment. The Red Wings roster is overflowing, and with the uncertainty of Darren Helm’s health, the question remains, who will find themselves in another sweater to start the season? Ken Holland has a problem on his hands, and he needs to figure something out quick. Training camp is right around the corner.