Approaching one of the biggest offseasons in recent years, it’ll be crucial for the Detroit Red Wings to have a successful offseason this winter, as the moves they make could significantly impact the trajectory of their rebuilding phase.
Starting with free agency, general manager Steve Yzerman will have to determine if he wants to bring back any of the team’s 10 unrestricted free agents that are slated to hit the open market next month. In addition, the former All-Star forward will also need to negotiate new contracts with the club’s 10 restricted free agents before the start of next season, which could prove to be difficult.
While re-signing the majority of those RFAs should be pretty simple, the same can’t be said when it comes to negotiating with two of Detroit’s top young players. Along with forward Anthony Mantha needing a new contract, teammate Tyler Bertuzzi will also need to sign on the dotted line in the near future, who drew comparisons to Brad Marchand this past season.
Despite finishing dead last in the standings with a record of 17-49-5, Bertuzzi served as one of the lone bright spots for the Red Wings this past season and that’s about to pay off in a massive way for the youngster. Earning his first trip to the All-Star Game, the former second-round pick definetly lived up to his expectations, playing a significant role on the team’s top five-on-five line.
Through 71 games played, the 25-year old averaged a career-high 19:19 minutes of ice time, recording 21 goals, 48 points, 129 shots on net, 71 hits, 30 blocks, along with 25 takeaways. Additionally, the left-hander also generated all-time highs in goals per game (0.30), assists per game (0.38), points per game (0.68), and goals created per game (0.26).
Based on this impressive progression, Bertuzzi has certainly made a strong case for himself to receive a raise from his $1.4 million salary from the 2019-20 campaign and will be searching for another multi-year deal once again. The problem? There could be an issue determining the length of his next contract, as the front office attempts to avoid having both of their emerging stars become eligible for free agency during the same offseason.
Similar to Mantha, Bertuzzi is also coming off his two-year, $2.8 million bridge deal that he signed in 2018 and there’s a good chance both players will demand four or five-year deals this time around. Considering the current market for top-six wingers, there’s even a possibility either of them could ask for an extension beyond the five-year mark, which is something Yzerman has likely considered offering at some point as well.
Since the Ontario native has only enjoyed two full seasons in the NHL, there’s definitely some risk with signing him to a long-term extension this early in his career. With that said, this could also be a great opportunity to sign him to a team-friendly deal before he takes another massive step forward with his development.
If the Red Wings are considering a short-term deal, it would make a ton of sense to offer Bertuzzi a contract similar to forward Jakub Vrana’s two-year $6.7 million contract, especially since the Capitals’ winger has only scored seven more points than him since the 2017-18 campaign. But instead of offering the 6-foot-1 forward another two-year deal, Yzerman should hand him a three or four-year extension with a salary of around $3.5 million per season.
Taking into account Mantha’s next contract, which will likely stretch over five or six seasons, this type of deal for Bertuzzi would prevent both of them from reaching free agency at the same time and keep them in Detroit for the foreseeable future. As a result, the team’s top line – that’s centered by Dylan Larkin – would all be under control through at least the 2023-24 campaign.
Even though next season is expected to be another losing season for the Red Wings, and it’ll probably be hard to watch at times, there’s no debating they have an extremely promising young core that’s expected to grow even further in 2021.