DETROIT >> When Darren Helm was cleaning out his locker at the end of the season it sounded like his chances or re-signing were slim.
That all has changed.
Helm, 29, signed a five-year deal worth $19.25 million.
Helm, who’s coming off a four-year deal that had an average cap hit of $2.125, used the free agency interview period that began on Saturday to speak with other teams. He chose however to work on a long-term deal so he could remain in Detroit.
“It was definitely a different year,” Helm said during the Wings’ locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “I think a lot of other guys experienced the same issues. It’s something I’ll have to decide. I know there are a couple guys I need to talk to, (coach Jeff Blashill and general manager Ken Holland), and see where everything is headed and where I see myself fitting into this organization or where they see me fitting into this organization then I’ll have to make some tough decisions.”
Helm had 13 goals and 13 assists in 77 games last season, which is seven points less than he had in 75 games a year ago.
The team approached Helm’s agent during training camp about signing an extension, but he got injured and missed the entire preseason and first four games of the regular season which put talks on the back burner.
That disappointed Helm.
“I’m not sure yet,” Helm said when asked if he wants his role expanded on the team. “There’s lots of different … I don’t’ know what I’m looking for here … it’s just a little tougher bouncing around from line to line.
“Winning is a big part of it,” Helm added. “I want to win. I really don’t mind playing on the bottom lines as long as there’s that respect factor. You get opportunities in different situations. If that looks like that’s the case that I’ll get to play in those situations that I feel that I can play in then I’ll be happy. If not and they tell me right away that’s not going to happen then I may not want to stay.
His former coach, Mike Babcock, once called Helm the best third-line center in the NHL.
He’s a fast skater that can play on a top-six scoring line or versatile enough to play a checking role.
“There are situations where I definitely wasn’t happy this year when I was playing and I wasn’t too happy when those situations arose,” Helm said. “So I want to see why that happened as often as it did and make sure I find a place that it won’t happen often.”
Helm has missed time with numerous injuries, including groin, concussion, forearm, back and knee.
Helm, who was taken in the fifth round (132nd overall) of the 2005 draft, played just seven regular season games in the 2007-08 campaign and then 18 more in the playoffs, playing a key role in the Wings winning the Stanley Cup.