Maple Leafs should re-sign both Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is busy with interviews this week for his head coaching vacancy. Once the recruitment process is wrapped up, the Leafs GM needs to turn his attention to getting contract extensions finalized with Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Management preached major changes and how everything is on the table last week at their end-of-year press conference, but to me, Domi and Bertuzzi get a pass. Treliving wanted “piss and vinegar”, he wanted some more “snot”, both in his own words, and both forwards were able to get past slow starts and find their groove down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They weren’t the issue.
For Bertuzzi, after admitting before the season started he was a bit nervous about how playing in the hockey hotbed of Toronto was going to go, he didn’t exactly come out flying in his first few months as a Maple Leaf. The frustration was visibly wearing on the pesky forward and now-former head coach Sheldon Keefe was moving him around the Leafs’ top-six to try and find the perfect fit for the quirky winger. With six goals and just 20 points through his first four months in Toronto, Bertuzzi was struggling and was having some of the worst puck luck of any Leaf. Then everything changed.
Keefe decided to put Bertuzzi on the wing with Auston Matthews and Domi on the other side, and it was a recipe for success. After just seven goals in his first 55 games, the light bulb went off, the luck changed and Bertuzzi got on a heater. In February, he had six goals in 12 games. In March, he had six goals in 13 games and the Sudbury, ON native capped off the season with six points in nine games in April. After an extremely slow start, Bertuzzi ended the season collecting 21 goals and 43 points in 80 games and continued his strong play into the postseason, finishing the seven-game series against his old team in Boston, tied for the lead in Leafs’ production.
Speaking of Domi, it was certainly a feeling-out process to start the season. Keefe wasn’t a big fan of his defensive game, even though the production offensively was adequate and it quickly became obvious, Domi was a pass-first player and sometimes overpassed. He didn’t score a goal until early December, 22 games into the season. The assists were there, as the versatile forward finished his first three months as a Leaf with 21 points in 34 games. But the defensive struggles were becoming an issue and it was becoming clear as day Domi wasn’t suited for a third-line centre, shut-down type of role.
Like Bertuzzi, after a slow start Domi found his groove to end the season, and of course, playing alongside Matthews helped his cause. However, you can’t knock Domi’s facilitation abilities as he showed off his elite passing skills throughout the entire season. With 47 points in 80 games to end his first season living out his dream, it’s also worth noting that he finished seventh among Leafs forwards in ice-time at averaging 13:47 a game.
Domi’s ability to play down the middle or on either wing is something Treliving needs to consider during negotiation. Sure, he doesn’t kill penalties, but he is quite versatile and if the new coach doesn’t go back to the well with having him on the first line with Matthews and Bertuzzi, look for Domi to centre the second line and push John Tavares down the depth chart. It could also allow him to build some chemistry with William Nylander and Mitch Marner, should the latter still be around next season.

Treliving Has Money to Work With

The Maple Leafs enter the offseason with a projected $18.5 million in cap space. Domi and Bertuzzi could be finagled to hover around the same cap hits as last season if there’s some term on their new deals.
Domi made $3 million, meanwhile, Bertuzzi was owed $5.5 million. They both will make more on the free-agent market come July, but Treliving can’t let them get there. A little bit more annually for both players and go a four-year term and call it a day.
Both players are on the good side of 30, in the prime of their careers and have expressed a desire to stay with the Maple Leafs. They are both able to handle adversity and while Toronto as a team, couldn’t score in the playoffs, Domi and Bertuzzi weren’t the focal points of the problem.
Treliving will be busy this summer in search of another proven NHL goaltender, a shakeup on defence and also several restricted free-agent forwards to lock in. The Maple Leafs GM should put the rest on hold until these two extensions are in the books and ensure both Domi and Bertuzzi are locked in long-term.

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