Joe Yerdon

Wings hoping Darren Helm’s back improves

Detroit’s Darren Helm played in just one game last season thanks to a nagging back injury. As the offseason rolls on, he’s working on getting back into shape and still getting healthy by working out at prospect camp this week.

As Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press says, the Wings are hoping he can return to form to help solidify their situation at center.

If Helm recovers from his injury — which numerous specialists have said is not structural — then the depth chart down the middle is easy enough to pen. It’ll be Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Helm and Joakim Andersson.

Andersson is a restricted free agent the Wings are slowly working on getting re-signed. Meanwhile, Detroit’s overabundance of forwards is making things a bit difficult.

Detroit can have Andersson take Helm’s spot on the third line and have Cory Emmerton center the fourth line, but with 16 forwards to deal with someone’s got to go. Helm’s questionable status is forcing GM Ken Holland to hang tight and figure things out.

Winnipeg GM has some work left to do

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Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some work to get done this summer.

The team hasn’t been overly active in free agency and perhaps that’s because they’ve got five key restricted free agents to get signed. Those five, who all filed for arbitration last week, include Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Eric Tangradi, and Paul Postma.

Of that bunch, Little and Wheeler are two-thirds of their first line and Bogosian is a top-pair defenseman. Those are some potentially very costly contracts to get worked out. As Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe says, Cheveldayoff has no choice but open up the wallet to make sure these guys are taken care of.

According to CapGeek.com, Winnipeg currently has the second-lowest payroll in the NHL at $45.8 million. Only the Islanders have a lower mark.

Jets owner David Thomson is one of the wealthiest people in North America. These signings will get done but you wonder why things play out like this.

Clarkson to wear reverse of Wendel Clark’s number

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David Clarkson is wearing No. 71 this season for Toronto.

That number is the reverse of Wendel Clark’s famous No. 17 that he wore, and made legendary, during his time with the Maple Leafs. One thing that won’t do is stop the comparisons being made between their styles of play.

As James Mirtle of The Globe And Mail shares, the comparisons are unfair to Clarkson. Even the man himself says Clark’s legacy is tough to live up to.

“I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t live up to what he has done. To me, [wearing his jersey] was a childhood thing,” Clarkson, who grew up in Toronto, said.

That’s the right thing to say and should be taken for what it’s worth. Then again, the first time he scores a goal on a scrum in front of the net and beats up an opponent for trying to stop him, the talk will return with a fury.

At least there are no Quebec Nordiques to trade him to in heartbreaking fashion later on. Not yet, anyhow.

(picture via @RealSports on Twitter)

Flyers goalie Boucher signs in Switzerland

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Brian Boucher’s professional career will continue, just not in North America.

Nicola Berger of Neue Luzerner Zeitung in Switzerland reports the 36 year-old goalie has signed with EV Zug in the Swiss National League. Boucher reportedly got the nod over former Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro for the job.

Last season, Boucher played four games with the Philadelphia Flyers but also played 16 more with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms.

A 13-year NHL veteran, Boucher has had his share of ups and downs after starting his career in Philly back in the 1999-2000 season.

He saw his ability to play threatened two seasons ago with Carolina when he suffered a serious groin injury. Now he’ll join fellow Americans and former NHLers Rob Schremp and Andrew Hutchinson in Switzerland.

Agent: Kovalchuk’s departure won’t lead to Russian exodus

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Ilya Kovalchuk’s “retirement” from the NHL to head to Russia had some in the industry thinking it could lead to other Russian players ditching the North America for the KHL.

As Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press shares, many insiders aren’t buying that. Agent Mark Gandler, whose client list includes Alexander Semin and Alex Burmistrov, says guys won’t start leaving in droves.

“I don’t think it’s an epidemic or anything like that,” he said. “I think each person makes his decision based on the circumstances that he’s in, based on his environment, his family, his upbringing.”

Kovalchuk’s choice was to head home and have his family join him there. That hasn’t stopped speculation that he was upset with how much money he lost thanks to taxes and escrow payments. In Russia he can make just as much money as he would in the NHL except it’ll be tax-free there.

As Gandler told Whyno, “The only incentive they can give you, in theory, is money.” That along with a less-busy schedule and thus more family time could just mean that much to him.