Re-Sign or Resign: Darren Helm

Winging It In Motown

Welcome to Re-Sign or Resign, a new segment covering the pros and cons of Detroit’s pending UFAs. We’ll be taking a closer look at each UFA while going over two schools of thought: re-signing the player, or letting him run free into the sunset. Earlier this week, we covered Luke Glendening. Today’s topic is the last Cup-winner from the 2008 run: speedster Darren Helm.

During multiple points in the 2020-21 season, I genuinely forgot that Helm still played for the Wings.

Most of this season felt like a fever dream if I’m being honest. But every once in a while, a moment of lucidity would wake me from my trance. For a brief few seconds, I felt a genuine rush of excitement as a player flew down the ice for a breakaway. Sobering reality would again crash down upon me as I read the number 43 and saw a play I’ve seen hundreds of times. Helm speeds past his opponents until it’s just him and the goalie. Then, like clockwork, he whiffs the shot. Every. Single. Time.

This has become somewhat of a running joke within the Red Wings community.


You get the idea.

Helm had a season with the Red Wings, scoring three goals and eight points in 47 games. While that may not seem very impressive, the leading scorer for Detroit, Filip Hronek, had just 26 points. It doesn’t soften the blow for poor Helm, who is slowly approaching the twilight of his NHL career.

With that being said, should the Wings re-sign helm, or set him loose to secure a lucrative deal somewhere else?

The Red Wings were bad this year. This should come as a shock to nobody. But rarely is the blame shouldered on a single player. Helm, while not quite at his peak anymore, was rarely the problem on the defensive end. Actually, his possession metrics on the Glendening-Helm-Erne line were among the best of the roster. He’s #7 on the roster in Fenwick percentage, #8 in Corsi, and started in the defensive end 62.5 percent of the time he played. This means the coaches trust him to handle difficult assignments when the odds are stacked against the Wings. Plus, he made Radko Gudas look absolutely stupid on the ice — a huge win in my books.

Fun fact: Darren Helm has more Stanley Cups and hat tricks than Dylan Larkin. Let that sink in.

Look, let’s be realistic here: if Helm is getting another deal, it’s going to be short, sweet, and dirt cheap. He’s 34 now and he’s not dealing with Master Negotiator Ken Holland anymore. He’s going to have to take a pretty steep pay cut to justify making it on this team. Sam Gagner signed a one-year, $850,000 deal last season. With Helm’s veteran presence and history with the organization, that seems like a pretty fair offer.

I get the strangest feeling that this is going to be the more popular decision.

Let’s start with some facts. Helm is 34. If he’s the only veteran re-signed, he’s automatically the oldest player on the roster behind Frans Nielsen. By every metric, he’s an offensive black hole. His linemates score at a lower rate and struggle to generate offense while he’s on the ice. Evolving Hockey’s model shows that, while he’s got some defensive promise, his offensive work is about as effective as he is on a breakaway.

Skater table for Darren Helm, showing that he is fifth percentile on offense and 84th percentile on defense.

Image & Table: Evolving Hockey

In goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR), he falls far, far below the offensive minimum of a replacement-level player.

The Red Wings are going to be another bottom-feeding team next season. This should not be news to anyone. Despite this, is it really worth it to have a soon-to-be 35-year-old Darren Helm taking up one of the spots on the bottom-six? Givani Smith is pushing for a spot on the roster next season. He’s already shown us in the limited timeframe he’s had that he’s a more consistent player than Helm. He could easily replace Helm’s production — and likely produce more than eight points in 47 games — almost seamlessly.

“But Jake!” the Devil’s Advocate says. “You’re forgetting about his Veteran Presence and Grit and Leadership! Why would we throw away those intangibles?”

I’ll offer you a simple solution in two words: free agency.

What does Helm bring to the table that makes him more worthy of a contract than, say, Bobby Ryan or Luke Glendening or even Sam Gagner? Look, Helm’s been a consistent part of Detroit’s roster for over a decade. Heck, he won a Stanley Cup with the team. But there comes a time where you’ve got to let the budding youth movement take over. Unfortunately, I think the writing is on the wall for Helmer.

The Verdict

As much as it may pain some people to say, Darren Helm’s time is up. He’s not the player he once was, and I’d be willing to bet that he doesn’t resurge to career highs next season, either. This is the end of the line for Helm, barring a two-way, league-minimum deal. Can he find a home on another roster? Maybe. Will he push a team over the edge to Cup contention? Probably not.

No matter where the wind takes him, I wish Helmer the best.


Should the Red Wings re-sign Darren Helm?

  • 5%
    Heck yeah!

    (18 votes)

  • 80%
    Absolutely not

    (247 votes)

  • 13%
    I don’t care

    (42 votes)

307 votes total

Vote Now

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