Tyler Bertuzzi is just one of the members of the Detroit Red Wings corps whose contract needs to be taken care of soon. Bertuzzi is 27 years old and has been one of the most important players on the Red Wings in his six years on the team. Captain Dylan Larkin will also be a free agent after the 2022-23 NHL season. These two players have been mainstays on the Red Wings’ first line as the team has rebuilt its roster.
Bertuzzi’s time with the Red Wings has not been without controversy, though. He has not been vaccinated for COVID-19. This means he was not eligible to play games in Canada during the 2021-22 NHL season. This was after Bertuzzi missed the 14 games during the 2021-22 NHL season. The last two contract negotiations between Bertuzzi and the Red Wings brass have been complex.
In the summer of 2020, the two sides could not agree on a contract. Bertuzzi was awarded a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. He learned from this during his most recent contract negotiations which resulted in Bertuzzi signing a two-year contract with an average annual value of $9.5 million. ‘No wanted to go to arbitration, that wasn’t even in our heads. ‘We knew we’d get something done and get to even ground. I’m happy we did, and both sides are real happy,’ Bertuzzi said.
Whether or not Bertuzzi is happy enough to sign yet another contract with the Red Wings is another matter. That is if general manager Steve Yzerman does not get an offer from a team for Bertuzzi. The number of acquisitions made by Yzerman during free agency makes it unlikely that the team will be far enough back for this to happen. These veterans were brought in because the Red Wings under Jeff Blashill were blown out on multiple occasions and not hard enough to play against. This cannot continue under new coach Derek Lalonde.
Aside from this controversy, Bertuzzi has also had injury issues in the past. On April 30th, 2021 he underwent successful back surgery after only playing in 9 games during the 2020-21 season. Yzerman must know that Bertuzzi’s back will impact the 27-year-old’s play as he ages. If the team is out of a playoff spot and Bertuzzi has indicated that he is not returning to the Red Wings in free agency, Yzerman should look to move him in order to maximize the return.
While Bertuzzi plays left wing Larkin plays center for the Red Wings which is a position of premium in the National Hockey League. Drafted 15th overall by the Red Wings in the 2014 NHL entry draft out of the University of Michigan, Larkin has played in just over 500 games and scored nearly 150 goals. This is the fifth most goals scored by a player in that draft behind Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Sam Reinhart, Brayden Point, and Nikolaj Ehlers.
I have previously written that Larkin is the most important piece on the offensive side of the puck for the Red Wings. Larkin scored 31 goals and added 38 assists in 71 games played during the 2021-22 season which was only one less than the 32 he scored in 2018-19. Growing up in Waterford, Michigan as a Red Wings fan, he has been a valuable member of the team during the rebuild. Larkin has also had injuries in his past and Yzerman needs to keep these in mind when it comes to determining how long his next contract will be.
Ahead of the 2022-23 season after which Larkin will be a free agent, he has changed his representation to Creative Arts Agency and will be represented by Matt Williams and Pat Brisson. This indicates that Larkin wants to maximize his earnings on this next contract. This is not a surprise as this is what any athlete would do. They only have a certain window during their career in order to make money that can change the future of their family.
Bertuzzi and Larkin are the two most important forwards on the current Red Wings roster. The fact that both will be free agents after the 2022-23 season as Yzerman has improved the roster is something to keep an eye on. If they both leave without a return for the Red Wings the Yzerplan can be called into question.
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