Tyler Bertuzzi signs with one of B’s top rivals
Saturday saw the Bruins by all means close the door on Tyler Bertuzzi returning to the club. And on Sunday, a door in Toronto opened for the 28-year-old, as Bertuzzi and the Maple Leafs came to terms on a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
Given that the Bruins cited ‘term’ as one of the biggest reasons why they were unable to work out an agreement with Bertuzzi, just what exactly transpired between the end of their discussions and Sunday afternoon?
Well, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, who spoke with Bertuzzi’s agent, Bertuzzi did not have an offer from a contending team that came with a $5.5 million average annual value. And though Bertuzzi had talks with the B’s, the sides could not find common ground, and had moved on and handled other business by the time Bertuzzi’s camp pivoted to a one-year deal.
In essence, it was one of those rare instances where both the player and the team misread the market, but for different reasons.
On the part of the Bruins, term was a definite issue. That alone tells you that a one-year deal was not on the table at any point during their conversations because the Bruins would not have been afraid of a one-year deal. Especially if they could’ve talked him down from that $5.5 million salary in the name of boosting his value or taking care of him next offseason when their cap situation (and the cap situation of the entire NHL for that matter) is expected to be in a much healthier spot.
Now, as for the part of the Bruins ‘moving on’ and handling other business before Bertuzzi made his decision, context matters, and the context is that the Bruins had to fill out a roster and couldn’t wait forever. (They began free agency with just six forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie signed to their roster for the 2023-24 season.)
This wasn’t a case of the Bruins absolutely wasting all of their money instead of signing Bertuzzi either. Taking stock of their NHL signings — Patrick Brown, Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Shattenkirk — the Bruins spent a combined $5.85 million on five players, with Geekie’s $2 million the highest cap hit among that group of five. That was just $1.975 million than they would have spent had they made five signings at the NHL league minimum salary of $775,000. To say they ‘chose’ that over Bertuzzi is lacking the context that the Bruins still had to, y’know, build out a full roster of skaters.
Bertuzzi’s camp was also clearly convinced that they could’ve gotten a better deal — both in dollars, term, or maybe even both — when free agency opened. The talk leading up to free agency seemed to indicate that that would indeed be the case for Bertuzzi after a strong finish to what was an injury-interrupted year prior to his trade to Boston. That clearly wasn’t the case.
And taking into account what Bertuzzi’s camp said about the average annual values offered to him, it stands to reason the Bruins likely offered Bertuzzi something in the range of $20 million over four years. That would’ve allowed them to celebrate the fact that they had re-signed Bertuzzi and added a $1 million player for the same price they were paying for one Taylor Hall.
Whether or not Bertuzzi should’ve taken that deal will be answered in due time, and really by his 2023-24 with the Leafs.
In Toronto, the Ontario-born Bertuzzi has a chance to send his value to the moon should he serve as a Michael Bunting replacement and skate with Auston Matthews for a full season as many expect.
Acquired from the Red Wings in exchange for a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2024 (and a fourth-round pick in 2025), Bertuzzi thrived with the Bruins, with four goals and 16 points in 21 games, followed by a postseason run that saw him score a team-leading five goals in Boston’s seven-game postseason disappointment.
Bertuzzi will make his return to Boston, and as a Maple Leaf, on Thursday, Nov. 2.