Darren Helm

Crowded at C: Wings to open with Helm as Datsyuk’s winger


With Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Joakim Andersson down the middle, the Detroit Red Wings have one of those “good problems” — an abundance of NHL-caliber centers.

And it’s a problem Mike Babcock already has a solution for.

While playing Helm with Datsyuk isn’t anything new — last year, the two skated together along with Justin Abdelkader on a makeshift line — it is curious that Babcock would make the move now, with everybody healthy and his feelings on how well Helm plays the middle.

“I think he’s is the best third-line center in the NHL when he’s healthy,” Babcock said last November, per the Macomb Daily. “He’s just got to get his game back. He can be a real factor for us. He’s flat out got speed, he’s tenacious, he’s strong, he’s heavy and he’s a good player.”

Helm, 27, has struggled with a myriad of injuries over the last two years. He missed 58 games (extending over two seasons) with a serious back ailment, then an additional 26 last season with shoulder, head and groin issues. When healthy, though, he’s an impact guy, scoring 12 goals and 20 points in 42 games last year while displaying the versatility to fill a number of different roles up front.

Now, the big question moving forward is — who will occupy the wing opposite Helm? Abdelkader got the call last year, as mentioned above, but the move came under fire on a number of occasions as it seemed incongruous to put Datsyuk’s playmaking abilities in between two guys that are — no disrespect intended — grinder types more than skill players.

Mind you, if Datsyuk can continue to do things like this, Helm and whoever should be just fine.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?