Red Wings F Tyler Bertuzzi Needs to Take Step Forward in Year 5

With the rebuilding process still underway, the Detroit Red Wings are hoping to improve their overall performance next season and it seems the front office is asking one of the members of their young core to showcase his full potential when he returns to action this winter.

Coming off back-to-back successful seasons, where he exceeded 20 goals and nearly touched 50 points in each of those campaigns, forward Tyler Bertuzzi became a restricted free agent for the second time in his career and was looking for a considerable raise from his previous two-year, $2.8 million bridge deal. Unfortunately, the 25-year old couldn’t come to an agreement with management regarding a new contract and both sides were forced to participate in an arbitration hearing, which awarded him a $3.5 million salary for the 2020-21 campaign.

Considering Bertuzzi’s camp was looking to receive $4.25 million on a one-year contract, this figure must be a little disappointing for the 2019-20 All-Star, as his recent results suggest the youngster’s value likely should’ve earned him a slightly higher raise. Comparing the left-winger’s production over the last two seasons to the rest of the 2013 draft class, the former second-round pick has been one of the top producing forwards from that group of players and his salary should reflect that sentiment.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Since the 2018-19 campaign, the 6-foot-1 forward has recorded 42 goals (tied for eighth-most among all forwards who were selected during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft), 95 points (eighth-most), 0.29 goals per game (tied for eighth-most), 0.66 points per game (10th-most), 20 power-play points (10th-most), along with 36 even-strength goals (tied for fifth-most), according to NHL.com.

Taking into account that Bertuzzi has scored five more goals, 11 more points, and has averaged nearly two more minutes of ice time than forward Pavel Buchnevich – who’s slated to earn $3.25 million in 2020-21 – over the past two seasons, there’s a very strong chance the emerging star will outperform his contract during his fifth season in the NHL.

Since Detroit currently owns the second-most cap space in the league – just over $15 million, according to CapFriendly.com – they wouldn’t have experienced any financial concerns by paying the left-hander at least $4 million next season and both sides probably would’ve been able to avoid arbitration if that occurred. That being said, the Ontario native will likely have an opportunity to land a lucrative extension next offseason, as the team could look to buy-out his final year of arbitration and lock him up for the foreseeable future.

In order for that situation to occur, Bertuzzi will definitely need to prove himself once again and must showcase he’s capable of staying healthy for a third straight campaign. Adding to this, it’d also be very beneficial if the physical forward can display signs of growth in 2020-21, as he still has some holes in his game that’ll need to be corrected moving forward.

So what kind of progression does the former Guelph Storm product need to display next season? And how much can he actually improve after leading his club in goals (21) power-play assists (11), along with the second-most points (48), goals per game (0.3), takeaways (25), and average ice time (19:19 minutes)?

Well, improving his puck control and accuracy will be two of the biggest improvements the former top prospect will need to make, as he finished with the second-most giveaways (57) and missed shots on net (55) among all forwards on the team this past season.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Along with making adjustments in the turnover margin, Bertuzzi must also find a way to increase his goal total while on the power play, as just seven of his 49 career NHL goals have been scored with the man advantage. Based on his ability to serve as a playmaker at times during his tenure in the AHL and OHL, it seems the hard-hitting forward still has some room to grow in that area with the Red Wings, which could help him surpass 50 points for the first time in his young career.

With Bertuzzi slated to become a restricted free agent once again next offseason, there’s a chance No. 59 could be forced to endure another arbitration hearing shortly after the 2020-21 campaign concludes, but it seems the front office will be determined to avoid that type of situation in hopes of agreeing to a long-term contract with the young forward. While he’s happy playing on a one-year deal, there’s no question the fifth-year pro will be aiming to prove he deserves to be rewarded for his impressive production, which should earn him a lucrative extension next summer.