Bertuzzi, Maple Leafs agree to one-year, $5.5 million deal

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, the team announced in a news release, 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, 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, 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.

But, headed into free agency this weekend, the thought around the league was that Bertuzzi's next stop might be the long one.

"It's not what we set out to do, not our M.O. from the beginning. But there were boxes that needed to be checked," Todd Reynolds, Bertuzzi's agent, told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski on Sunday, regarding the one-year term. "Coming from Detroit, playing for Boston, Tyler wanted to play for a contender."

Reynolds added that Bertuzzi was indeed seeking a long-term contract as free agency approached. That made the Bruins believe they couldn't afford his ask. So, Bertuzzi went to market, but as Reynolds and Bertuzzi saw how the free agent landscape was shaping up, they pivoted to a short-term deal with a contending team.

By then, the Bruins had already moved on to other business and didn't have the salary cap space to bring him back -- if there was still a desire to do so.

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 scored just seven goals in 2017-18 and eight goals over 50 games last season.