DETROIT – What Darren Helm said Tuesday after skating with a few of his teammates at Joe Louis Arena is just what the Wings were hoping to hear.
“It feels good,” Helm said of his repaired right forearm. “It feels good shooting, passing, everything feels fine. I haven’t had any pain or trouble with it. My doctors have told me it’s on track. We’ve gotten past that troubled stage a long time ago. It’s been good.”
Helm suffered lacerated tendons in early in the first period of Game 1 of the Wings’ opening round playoff series with the Nashville Predators when he was cut by Alexander Radulov’s skate blade.
Helm had surgery that night and his season came to an end.
“I can still feel it when I do things I normally do,” said Helm, who added he would be ready if training camp starts on time a week from Thursday in Traverse City. “The weight isn’t quite there yet and I’m not lifting as much as I normally do at this time. It was a month before I got here before I could get going so I’m a little bit behind in that aspect. But everything I’ve done so far it’s felt good.”
And Helm, who will likely wear Kevlar sleeves for added protection, had just returned from a sprained left MCL.
Helm is a valuable asset to the Wings’ bottom six forwards, anchoring the third-line center spot.
His absence was missed in the playoffs, where Detroit fell to the Predators in five games.
“I was out a month before the playoffs started and I only played three minutes (in Game 1 vs. Nashville),” Helm said. “I’ve kind of been in summer mode for a while. I wasn’t able to use my arm for the first month and a half after the season. I slowly started to get on bikes and running and doing little stuff. It took a long time before I could do anything. It was boring a lot of times. I missed out on a few things I wanted to do during the spring. It was probably the longest summer I’ve had.”
Helm, who would have become a restricted free agent on July 1, did get some good news this offseason when the Wings signed him to a four-year deal worth $8.5 million on June 19.
“He was a big loss in the playoffs,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He just does a lot for our team. He can kill penalties. He can play against the other team’s best players. If you had to put him on the wing he could play on the wing. He’s just a real good, solid, important player for our team.
“He’s really developed into a premier third-line center in the National Hockey League,” Holland continued. “He does so much for us. He provides energy, he provides speed. He’s physical and he’s developing into a real good penalty killer. He’s a real good role model and developing into a quiet leader on the team.”
The two extra years on the deal shaves off two years of unrestricted free agency for Helm.
Helm, who is entering his fourth full season with Detroit, played in just 16 regular season games for the Wings from 2007-09, but appeared in 41 postseason games during that same span and was an important part of Detroit’s 2008 Stanley Cup championship run and its return to the Stanley Cup final in 2009.
In 248 games, Helm has 32 goals and 51 assists. In 65 playoff games he has 10 goals and six assists.