4 potential free-agent destinations for Tyler Bertuzzi

Photo credit:© Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to make a decision on the future of Tyler Bertuzzi.
Despite some reported mutual interest, the reality is, Brad Treliving needs to upgrade his defense core and goaltending situation, so there may not be enough money to keep Bertuzzi around.
Bertuzzi signed a one-year deal in Toronto last season for $5.5 million and would likely be looking for a long-term contract with an average annual value in the $5.5-6.5-million range. He finished with 21 goals and 43 points in 80 games last year, after  an extremely slow start with just six goals in his first 46 games.
During the playoffs, it was a different story as Bertuzzi was playing first-line minutes mostly with Auston Matthews and Max Domi. He played nearly three minutes more per game and he ended the series with four points. If the salary cap wasn’t an issue, Bertuzzi would no question be back in Toronto, but the dollars need to make sense for Treliving and the Maple Leafs.
If Bertuzzi doesn’t return, here’s four potential free-agent destinations for the 29-year-old winger:

Nashville Predators

If Bertuzzi is on the open market, I’d expect the Nashville Predators to have interest. GM Barry Trotz has a ton of cap space to work with $26.3 million available and Trotz recently admitted his team needs a more balanced offense.
The Preds were a one-line team last season and even though Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist and Filip Forsberg carried the load, it can’t be the same story in Nashville next season. Bertuzzi would be a great fit and Smashville is likely something that would interest him.
Bertuzzi admitted from Day One that the media attention and noise surrounding the Maple Leafs was going to be interesting and something he wasn’t used to but he handled the Toronto market well, especially with his slow start offensively. There’d be no worries about this in Nashville — he could probably ask Ryan O’Reilly about this and find out.

New Jersey Devils

From all accounts, Bertuzzi had a strong relationship with Sheldon Keefe and the two could end up reuniting in New Jersey this summer. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald has $19.1 million in cap space to work with and while they have a desperate need for goaltending help, the Devils are also in the market to add some gritty top-nine forwards.
Bertuzzi is the definition of grit. He loves to get involved in the forecheck, hasn’t seen a scrum he doesn’t like and his unorthodox style keeps opponents on their toes. Quirky is a great way to define the way Bertuzzi plays hockey. Keefe enjoyed Bertuzzi’s style and considering his ice-time skyrocketed in the playoffs, it was obvious the head coach trusted the player.
Fitzgerald also has the Devils No. 10 overall pick in play ahead of the NHL Draft so depending on what he gets in return for the first-rounder could potentially sway any interest in Bertuzzi. New Jersey remains a very interesting team to watch with the offseason days away.

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo will be trying to improve next season and are likely going to be adding veteran NHL forwards to their mix. This balance will hopefully help push their young core and get them back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Bertuzzi could be a perfect fit.
The Sabres hired Lindy Ruff behind the bench and GM Kevyn Adams has $23.5 million in cap space this offseason. With the potential departures of Victor Olofsson and Zemgus Girgensons, Bertuzzi makes sense as a potential free-agent target to replace their minutes and be an upgrade offensively on the left side.
Buffalo finished last season with a 39-37-6 record and was ranked 23rd in the league averaging 2.98 goals-per-game. Bertuzzi could help provide secondary scoring to augment Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson. Given that his playoff production the past couple of seasons could be someone, Ruff could rely on when the games matter the most.

Detroit Red Wings

With $29.3 million in cap space this offseason and the potential departure of veteran forwards Patrick Kane, Daniel Sprong and David Perron, there’s a chance the Red Wings could circle back on Bertuzzi this summer.
He was originally a second-round pick of Detroit’s back in 2013 and spent parts of seven seasons with the organization before he was traded two seasons ago to the Boston Bruins. A trade that completely rattled Red Wings’ captain and best friend, Dylan Larkin:
The fit makes sense. The Red Wings want to win now, they want to take a huge step forward next season and will be looking to add proven NHL talent. They know Bertuzzi well, he knows what to expect playing in Detroit and reuniting with your best friend is always a great feeling. Keep an eye on the Red Wings this summer.
As for the Maple Leafs, they should be prioritizing re-signing the more versatile and cheaper Max Domi and will hopefully get an extension done before July 1 when free agency opens. With the absolute necessity to add at least two proven defensemen and another goaltender, Bertuzzi’s future with the Maple Leafs is bleak, at best. Unfortunately, in a hard salary cap world, cap space is a premium and could eventually squeeze Bertuzzi out of Toronto.

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