Despite a relatively quiet Day 1 of NHL Free Agency — the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Ryan Reaves to a three-year deal and John Klingberg to a one-year contract –, there is a buzz around the Toronto Maple Leafs who made more of a statement in free agency than they did a splash. According to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, that splash could be coming.
Fox tweeted on Sunday, “The players the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in free agency scored a combined 79 goals in 2022-23. The new Maple Leafs signed on July 1 combined for 15 goals in 2022-23. Brad Treliving isn’t done.” One of the names that has popped up over the past 18 hours is Tyler Bertuzzi.
Clearly, with the addition of Reaves, the Toronto Maple Leafs are determined to bolster their roster with toughness. But, GM Brad Treliving will also need scoring to replace the departures of Michael Bunting (Carolina), Ryan O’Reilly (Nashville), and Noel Acciari (Pittsburgh). Unrestricted free agent forward Tyler Bertuzzi is an expensive replacement, but he might be the best one.
The biggest name left in free agency after Day 1, the Boston Bruins hoped to retain Bertuzzi, but new reports are that the two sides aren’t likely to circle back to one another. Bertuzzi is determined to secure the best contract terms available and while there are only a handful of teams that can afford to give him what he’s looking for, — somewhere in the neighborhood of five to seven years and over $5 million per season. The Maple Leafs are believed to be in the mix, and potentially have a way to clear cap space if someone like William Nylander is moved. Frankly, while the salary cap implications were not explored in detail, accommodating Bertuzzi’s potential addition to the Maple Leafs would likely require a salary-moving trade to create the necessary space. The team will need to carefully manage their finances to make room for the desired acquisitions.
During a segment on NHL Network, Elliotte Friedman confirmed the Maple Leafs’ interest in Bertuzzi and, to a lesser degree, Max Domi. He revealed that Toronto was actively engaged in talks with Bertuzzi, a sentiment echoed by other insiders who suggest the Leafs are closely monitoring the forward’s decisions.
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period hinted that perhaps Bertuzzi has always been on Toronto’s radar. He noted that the Maple Leafs did not extend an offer to Michael Bunting before free agency. Their willingness to let him walk might have spoken as much about his reputation in the NHL and with the team as it did the organization’s desire to secure an upgrade.
Is This Really Even Possible?
As the offseason progresses, it remains to be seen if the Maple Leafs can secure the services of Tyler Bertuzzi and/or someone like Max Domi. Adding their grit and skill to the roster would undoubtedly strengthen Toronto’s lineup, but the team must navigate the salary cap constraints to make these moves a reality.
In particular, Bertuzzi is going to be expensive. Unless he’s willing to gamble on himself and sign a short-term deal with an offensive juggernaut, then cash in when the salary cap jumps like crazy, he’s not going to come cheap and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he fits in Toronto without the Maple Leafs making at least one more major move.
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