Maple Leafs should prioritize re-signing Max Domi over Tyler Bertuzzi

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
27 days ago
The NHL’s free agent market is right around the corner and Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has plenty of decisions to make on how exactly he wants to spend his projected $18.8 million in cap space. When it comes to re-signing his pending free-agent forwards, Treliving should be prioritizing keeping Max Domi in town over Tyler Bertuzzi.
Both players joined the Maple Leafs last season on one-year deals and from all accounts, are looking for some term on their next contracts. Treliving needs to tread lightly on the term, especially with Bertuzzi. With his style of play and skating ability, there’s plenty of risk involved going long-term.
Domi should be at the top of the to-do list for a number of reasons including his versatility. Not only can he play the wing, and be an elite facilitator like we saw when he was playing alongside Auston Matthews, Domi can fill in down the middle and could start next season as the Leafs No. 2 centre. This would allow for John Tavares to naturally slide down into the three hole. A spot where Tavares is going to have to get used to if he wants to stick around Toronto past next season.
Domi is a much better skater than Bertuzzi and isn’t likely to decline as fast throughout the next three or four seasons. The NHL Edge numbers show that Domi hit a top speed last season of 22.52 miles per hour (mph), meanwhile Bertuzzi hit 21.29 mph. Domi also had 111 bursts over 20mph, meanwhile Bertuzzi only had 29, which ranked him in the bottom half of the league.
Both players got off to slow starts to their Maple Leafs’ career but managed to turn things around later in the season and into the playoffs. Domi finished the regular season with 47 points compared to Bertuzzi’s 43, while Domi averaged only 13:47 in ice-time compared to Bertuzzi’s 16:02 — there’s clearly a significant gap between the two players.
Domi is more versatile, he’s more productive, a better skater, and perhaps most importantly, he’s going to be the cheaper of the two against the cap. The Toronto native made $3 million last season and will be looking for a raise on a multi-year contract, but his average annual value should be less costly than Bertuzzi’s, who made $5.5 million last season. With Treliving needing to revamp his defense core and potentially sign two or three proven defensemen, every dollar counts.
Another thing to consider when looking at the Maple Leafs roster is the lack of centre depth. Domi as a top-nine option down the middle could really go a long way for the Leafs. William Nylander, Mitch Marner (as of now), Matthew Knies, Bobby McMann, and Nick Robertson are candidates for top-six spots on the wing, therefore Bertuzzi could be replaced internally. There’s also been some speculation on a couple of free-agent forwards including David Perron, who played for Craig Berube in St. Louis and would be a cheaper option than Bertuzzi on a shorter contract, as well.
Toronto also has emerging prospects Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten, who will be pushing for roster spots up front next. Bringing back Domi and letting Bertuzzi walk could really give Treliving the kind of financial flexibility he’ll need to sign a couple of top-four defensemen and find a backup goaltender. If Marner gets dealt, it really changes everything, but considering the free-agent market opens on July 1, it’s unlikely Bertuzzi’s future in Toronto is tied to Marner’s.
The Maple Leafs have major decisions to make in a very short period of time. Treliving should be looking to keep Domi in Toronto, and use the money previously allocated to Bertuzzi to upgrade the defense core. Domi can play multiple positions, he’ll likely cost less and he showed throughout his first year in Toronto that he was born to be a Maple Leaf.

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