Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings have a difficult decision to make in the coming weeks regarding the future of forward Tyler Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi, 27, like many Red Wings players of late, has had his fair share of ups and downs. The rugged forward provided the organization with a 30-goal season last year as he operated at nearly a point-per-game pace totaling 62 points over 68 games. Unfortunately, that stellar season appears to be sandwiched between two not-so-great years.
In 2020-21 Bertuzzi played in just nine games due to a back injury but recorded seven points in his minimal action. Let’s not forget the whole vaccination situation from a couple of seasons ago, which prevented Bertuzzi from traveling to Canada to play. It’s quite possible that rubbed Yzerman, who has a history of being a bit ruthless, the wrong way.
This year has been disappointing for the pending unrestricted free-agent winger. Bertuzzi entered training camp with an injury and then broke each hand throughout the first half of the year, limiting him to just 15 games, and in those 15 games, he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm. Bertuzzi (before Thursday night’s game in Vegas) has recorded one goal and five points.
It’s been reported recently that Bertuzzi is willing to sign a long-term extension with the Detroit Red Wings, which begs the question, does Yzerman still see Bertuzzi being part of the future, and at what cost?
Bertuzzi is finishing a two-year restricted free-agent bridge deal that averages $4.75 million per season. Things we don’t know. Does Bertuzzi want the security of a seven or eight-year contract with perhaps a lower-than-expected average annual value? Or is Bertuzzi more inclined to take a shorter deal, possibly producing a higher salary, because it’s a much lower risk to the organization?
Predicting Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi’s next contract.
There are three things that I’d like to mention.
- There is what I believe the Detroit Red Wings should look to pay Bertuzzi
- There is what I think the Detroit Red Wings would pay Bertuzzi
- There is what I believe Bertuzzi will fetch on the open market
Let’s start in order.
1. When I look at Bertuzzi’s body of work, including his inability to remain healthy and available over the past few seasons, I’d be very reluctant to rush out and offer a seven or eight-year contract.
I would be comfortable offering Bertuzzi a three-year deal that averages $5 million per season. That gives Bertuzzi a slight raise and keeps him around fair market value for his career production. Over his career, Bertuzzi has averaged 0.67 points per game, that’s nearly 55 points per season, and he’s proven that he can score 30 goals. The short-term deal isn’t a high-risk move for the Red Wings and won’t hamper their ability to continue building the roster through free agency or pay their homegrown talent.
2. Knowing how shrewd Yzerman can be when it comes to negotiations, I don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to break the bank and overpay anyone, especially someone like Bertuzzi, who has often found himself at the center of Detroit’s trade talks over the past few seasons. Although nothing has materialized, where there is smoke, there is fire. Perhaps this is the year Detroit trades the pending free agent for future assets rather than risk losing him for nothing on the open market. If Detroit does come to an agreement with Bertuzzi, I see it being in the three-to-five-year range that tops out at $5.5 million.
3. One player comparison I like to use for Bertuzzi is Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman. Now, the former Michigan Wolverine has gotten ultra lucky over his career to be able to share the ice with the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and now Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Playing with those types of scorers will certainly help inflate Hyman’s offensive production; that being said, Hyman is in the second year of his seven-year deal with the Oilers, which averages $5.5 million per season. Hyman has averaged 0.62 points per game throughout his career and was 29 years old when he signed his current contract. Bertuzzi turns 28 this February.
Another player comparison I looked at was former Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown is retired now, but Bertuzzi has a similar style of play. Brown’s last deal was an eight-year extension that averaged $5.875 million. Brown maintained a 0.549 point per game average over his 18-year career.
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I expect on the open market, Bertuzzi will be able to find a long-term commitment from someone that averages around $6 million per season. He’s a versatile winger that can play either side and plays a physical brand of hockey many organizations covet in the postseason. Not all of the time, but more often than not, teams get burnt signing players to lucrative long-term deals in free agency. Former Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland once said, ‘there are no team-friendly signings in free agency.’