The Detroit Red Wings lost some of their forward depth today when GM Ken Holland told reporters including Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that Darren Helm would be out six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury. Helm was injured early in the Red Wings Saturday night matchup with the New Jersey Devils, and will now miss up to two months.
Helm, 31, is a perfect example of how the Red Wings roster and salary structure has become bloated over the years leading to some lean performances in the win column. Never much of an offensive threat, but capable defensively, Helm was signed to a five-year $19.25MM contract in the summer of 2016 despite scoring just 13 goals and 26 points the previous year. Though he was a useful player, there was no reason to believe his offensive output would increase, and yet somehow he was inked to a long-term deal for substantial money that included a no-trade clause. The team meanwhile had just been wiped quickly out of the first round of the playoffs and looked like they were headed for some tough times.
This year, Helm had just six points in 20 games despite seeing time near the top of the lineup on a semi-regular basis. He is still generally regarded as a good defensive player and can contribute in several ways, but is far from necessary on a team looking to get younger and give more opportunity to the next wave of forwards. That may be the silver lining in this situation, though given their strong 8-2-0 record over the last few weeks head coach Jeff Blashill likely would change nothing if he had the choice.
Helm was an obvious choice for a player the Red Wings could try to trade to free up some cap space going forward, but with this major injury it will be hard for him to showcase himself for any deadline deal—something that would need his approval anyway. For now, the team will get a chance to evaluate another young player in his absence and see if they are ready to move on. Should they miss the playoffs this season, the team does have a window to void his no-trade clause in June, according to CapFriendly.