Elliotte Friedman’s interview on 630CHED set off a storm in Hockey Twitter Land this week. In it, he posited that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been looking to acquire Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings for quite some time. With Zach Hyman reaching unrestricted free agent status, it’s no surprise that general manager Kyle Dubas is on the hunt for a replacement. His biggest battle, however, will be contending with Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings.
What Trading Tyler Bertuzzi Looks Like
Yzerman has earned a reputation for tough trades and patient process. He takes his time if he knows the value of his pieces. His trades of Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou are two shining examples. By slowing the pace of the high-pressure trade market, he’s successfully garnered assets to accelerate the Red Wings’ rebuild. This patient approach will play a huge part in trading Bertuzzi — if it even happens. Realistically, Yzerman is under no pressure whatsoever to trade Bertuzzi. He still has a year of restricted free agency, plays a key role, and is beloved by the fanbase.
Tyler Bertuzzi as a Player
With that in mind, why would Dubas want to pry Bertuzzi from the Red Wings? The Maple Leafs have a need at 2LW with Hyman’s expected departure. Bertuzzi can fit that mold and more. He fits the prototypical hardworking forward archetype, similar to that of Hyman and Blake Coleman. These types of players aren’t like an Auston Matthews or Jakub Vrana — they excel at opening up passing lanes, getting pucks from difficult places, and working to generate scoring chances.
In the past, the Red Wings relied on Justin Abdelkader to fit this role. Bertuzzi’s emergence made him obsolete. Additionally, Bertuzzi has a nice scoring touch; over the last three seasons, he’s scored at a 50-55-point pace. Injuries shortened Bertuzzi’s season in 2020-21, limiting him to just seven points in nine games. This year, he’ll be looking to prove himself after earning another contract extension.
The Pros and Cons of Trading Tyler Bertuzzi
Bertuzzi is 26, by the end of the season, he’ll have celebrated his 27th birthday. Many of the top prospects in the Red Wings’ future are either in their early 20’s or late teens. While it’s important to have a veteran presence, it begs a bigger question: does Bertuzzi fit into the rebuild timeline? When Yzerman traded Mantha, he mentioned in a press conference that, while Mantha was talented, he didn’t fit their projected timeline. It’s hard to say if Bertuzzi is in a similar situation — but sooner than later, the Red Wings will need to make up their mind.
Still, the fact that the Maple Leafs want him suggests they’re willing to pay a premium. Yzerman would be prudent to explore every avenue with Bertuzzi. If he can secure any one of Rasmus Sandin, Nicholas Robertson, or Timothy Liljegren from a Bertuzzi trade, he should do so as soon as he can. All three of the aforementioned players are young, high-potential, and can immediately fill in at their respective positions.
Patience, in all likelihood, will be the deciding factor of a Bertuzzi trade. In addition, Dubas is likely under a lot of pressure from the Maple Leafs upper management. In three years as general manager, his team has yet to make it past the first round of the playoffs. If the Leafs don’t make it past the first round in 2021-22, there’s a chance Dubas’ experience may be called into question.
The two characters in our story have vastly different perspectives. One is on the hunt to fill a missing piece. The other possesses a missing piece, but has all the leverage in the discussion. There is no immediate urge to move Bertuzzi, but Dubas and the Maple Leafs’ desperation may be something that Yzerman can leverage. The question will ultimately come down to how badly the Maple Leafs need or want Bertuzzi. If they hope to replicate the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they may need to overpay for the forward like the Lightning did with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. It wound up working out for Tampa Bay, who went on to win two Stanley Cups with Goodrow and Coleman.
At the very least, the Red Wings should head home with a high draft pick and a high-potential prospect. With absolutely zero pressure to engage in a trade, the biggest motivating factor will be the Maple Leafs’ need to secure a replacement for Hyman.
If the Maple Leafs want the “killer instinct” that Dubas mentioned during the locker room cleanout, Bertuzzi may be the answer.
Embed from Getty Images