Whether we like it or not we absolutely have to sign a center. If Stamkos says "no thanks" Nielson is the next best option. Nielson + Ladd/Lucic/Okposo + Brower/Martin would fill a lot of holes. If we don't sign Helm we have enough room to add 3 of the above names.
To be honest - if we're that desperate for a center - I'd rather promote from within if we don't land Stamkos rather than sign a ufa that'll want 5 plus years, and he's on the opposite side of 30.
I'm on the same page. Nielsen might be the next best option on the market, but what's the point? Perhaps if the Wings were in a better position, it would make more sense. Not that I'm already writing the team off for next season, but I don't think they're a Frans Nielsen away from contending. Given the current state of the team, why commit 5.5M and 3-4 years to a 32-year-old when you'll have younger players pushing him within two years?
Larkin and Athanasiou have served as centers in their career, although not in Detroit. KH has stated he envisions Larkin slotting in at center, but Athanasiou is up in the air (unless he's commented on him as well). It might be a "baptism by fire" situation, but I'd try them out there (if one struggles, try the other) before signing another players over the age of 30 to a contract with term. I understand that you generally want to insulate guys in these situations - let them start out as the third-line center and work their way up the depth chart. I think that could have worked with Pavel on this team with one year left on his contract, but now they'll have to offer term to someone else. If that someone else isn't part of the core moving forward, it kind of feels like a lateral move (at best) to me.