The Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent forward Tyler Bertuzzi, one of the more sought-after veterans on the market this summer.
The deal will carry a salary cap hit of $5.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Kristen Shilton, confirming reports, and will keep Bertuzzi in the Atlantic Division after he finished last season with the Boston Bruins.
One of a host of late-season additions to Boston as the Bruins geared up for their postseason run, Bertuzzi jumped into coach Jim Montgomery’s forward unit and onto the third line. He brought some additional grit to the high-flying Bruins, and as has been a staple of his career, he was a nuisance in front of the opposition’s net.
Bertuzzi, 27, was an interesting name around several trade deadline rumors because of his vaccination status. He has been outspoken on his stance not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and the thought was his trade value might be limited, especially among Canadian teams.
But the 2013 second-round pick of the Red Wings can play tough minutes up front for a contender in special-teams situations as well as at even strength, and his 6-foot-1, 186-pound frame often finds itself in the middle of after-the-whistle scrums with the opposition.
If there is an inconsistent edge to Bertuzzi’s game, however, it’s on offense. He topped 20 goals in three of his seven seasons with Detroit, including a career-high 30 two seasons ago. But he also finished with just seven tallies in 2017-18.
Bertuzzi, the son of former NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi, just wrapped up the final year of a deal that carried a $4.75 million salary cap hit. So Toronto’s contract represents a modest raise for the veteran, and the one-year term allows for a “prove it” season, a common term in the NHL for a year in which the player can take advantage of being on a contending team, maximize his production, and aim for a long-term deal next summer.
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