Will the Detroit Red Wings' Darren Helm Live Up to His New Contract?

PJ Sapienza@@pjsapiContributor IIIDecember 11, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 10:  Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Darren Helm signed a four-year deal in the offseason worth $8.5 million. The question now is can he live up to that deal?

At the time of the deal, the salary cap for this season was to be $70.2 million. With the current lockout, one of the main issues is to lower the cap. At this point, it is unknown how that will affect current contracts. But it appears safe to assume that the cap will be lower.

Now, a lower cap does come with other questions. 

Will they cut all contracts by a certain percentage as they did during the last labor stoppage?  Will they keep all current contracts and make teams scramble to get under the cap?  Will there be a one year window for teams to get to the new number?  Perhaps they'll go crazy and make everyone a free agent? 

While some questions are more plausible then others, something will have to give.

With a lower salary cap, this once good deal now has more weight to it as Helm will take up a larger percentage of the cap.  He has been on many people’s radar over the past couple of seasons as a possible break out candidate. He has yet to fully reach that potential, though.

His biggest asset is his speed. 

He is one of the fastest players in the league. In addition to that speed, he is all hustle. He is a constant pest to other teams, as he is good at poking the puck away and can be dangerous on the penalty kill.

With his speed and the amount of break aways that he is able to create, he should be able to score more goals. His career high is only 13.  While scoring is not his main role on the team, he is capable of finishing more of his chances then he does.

He has the ability to score 25 goals a season.

In the WHL, he did have a 41 goal season in 2005-06. The following year he had 25 goals in only 59 games before moving up to Grand Rapids. Granted his speed helped to widen the gap from other minor league players, but he should still be able to score more at the NHL level.

While 25 goals may be a big step, if Helm can reach the 20 goal or 50 point marks, he will be fully worth the contract. 

Obviously, in what will be at best a shortened season, those expectations will be lower for this season.  Assuming (OK hoping) that there will be at least a 48 game season, those numbers would be around 12 goals and 29 points.

Helm will be coming off a couple of injuries. He missed the end of the regular season due to a knee injury.  He also suffered a cut to his wrist in his first game back that resulted in surgery to repair tendons.

Then during a team skate during the lockout, he took a puck to the face, which broke a bone.  Luckily, the extra time has allowed him to heel, and he will be ready whenever the season starts.

If and when the season gets started, the younger players such as Helm will need to help step up.  Whatever happens to player contracts and the salary cap after the lockout could greatly change the makeup of the team. 

At 25 years old and with potential, it is difficult to see them moving Helm.  He will have every opportunity to see if he can make that jump from potential to actual big time player.

PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings, as well as many other sports.

You can follow him on Twitter

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