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Bertuzzi and the Maple Leafs agree to a one-year, $5.5 million deal


ESPNJuly 2, 2023 at 5:10 p.m. ET2 minutes to read

The Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday agreed to a one-year contract with free forward Tyler Bertuzzi, one of the most sought-after veterans on the market this summer.

The team announced in a press release that the deal would carry a salary cap of $5.5 million, and Bertuzzi would remain in the Atlantic Division after finishing last season with the Boston Bruins.

One of a slew of late-season additions to Boston as the Bruins prepared for the postseason, Bertuzzi jumped into head coach Jim Montgomery’s front unit and climbed to the third line. He brought some extra power to the high-flying Bruins, and as he has been a staple of his career, he has been a nuisance in front of the opposition net.

The son of former NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi, Bertuzzi has just wrapped up the final year of a $4.75 million salary cap deal. So the Toronto contract is a modest increase for the veteran, and the one-year term allows for a “prove it” season, where the player can take advantage of being on a competing team, maximize his production and aim for a long-term deal next summer.

But, heading into free agency this weekend, the league’s thinking was that Bertuzzi’s next stop could be a long haul.

“It’s not what we set out to do, and it’s not our intent from the start. But there were boxes that needed to be checked,” Bertuzzi’s agent, Todd Reynolds, told ESPN’s Greg Vyshinsky Sunday about the one-year stint. “Coming from Detroit, and playing for Boston, Tyler wanted to play for a competitor.”

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Reynolds added that Bertuzzi was already seeking a long-term contract with free agency looming. This made the Bruins believe they could not afford his request. So, Bertuzzi went on the market, but when Reynolds and Bertuzzi saw how the free agent scene was shaping up, they turned to a short-term deal with the opposing team.

By then, the Bruins had already moved on to other businesses and didn’t have the salary cap space to bring him back – if there was still a desire to do so.

Bertuzzi, 27, has been an interesting name around several rumored business deadlines due to his vaccination status. He has been outspoken about his position on not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and he believes its commercial value may be limited, especially among Canadian teams.

But the Red Wings’ 2013 second-round pick can play tough minutes up front for an opponent in special teams situations as well as in the equal strength, and his 6-foot-1, 186-pound frame often finds himself in the middle after the whistle with the opposition.

If there’s an inconsistent advantage in Bertuzzi’s game, it’s on offense. He topped 20 goals in three of his seven seasons with Detroit, including 30 two seasons ago. But he also scored just seven goals in 2017-18 and eight goals in 50 games last season.

Inmaculada Fuertes
Inmaculada Fuertes

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