According to a report on Friday, the Boston Bruins are looking into their options on how to keep potential unrestricted free agent winger Tyler Bertuzzi.
“Boston is exploring what it needs to do to keep Tyler Bertuzzi, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer,” Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman wrote in an abbreviated 32 Thoughts column.
While the fact that the Boston Bruins are looking to extend Bertuzzi and keep him in Black and Gold long term isn’t exactly breaking news, the fact one of, if not the most trusted NHL insiders dropped that nugget on Friday, does mean that with just under a month until NHL free agency kicks off, NHL free agent chatter and rumors are about to pick up.
For the first time in his NHL career, Bertuzzi, 28, can hit the unrestricted free agent market. Numerous projections from NHL insiders and salary capology sites have Bertuzzi projected to cost anywhere from $4.2-$5.2 million per season against the expected $83.5 million salary cap for next season. Regarding the report above, if the 2023-24 NHL salary cap was projected to go up as much as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had projected it would prior to the 2022-23 NHL regular season, then maybe Bertuzzi could garner that high a number on the NHL Free Agent market. That all changed though when the Commish changed his tune and said in December that the salary cap would only go to $83.5 million.
On March 3, the Boston Bruins acquired Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2024 first round pick (top-10 protected) and a 2025 fourth round pick with the Red Wings retaining 50 percent of Bertuzzi’s salary. Bertuzzi made an instant impact in his Boston Bruins debut with an assist, and finished the regular season with four goals in 12 assists in 21 regular season games. The 28-year-old, 6-foot-1, 186-pound winger then had five goals and five assists in the first seven Stanley Cup Playoff games of his career, tying Brad Marchand (4G,6A), for the team lead in points and Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak for the team lead in goals.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney pointed out in his final media availability on May 9, he and the team brass knew it was going to be difficult to retain Bertuzzi, as well as defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway, the other players he acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, given the impending salary cap hell the Bruins are about to enter.
“I couldn’t just categorically sign those players today,” said Sweeney, when specifically asked about the three impending UFAs acquired at the deadline. “You know, our cap situation, we leveraged a little bit. Everybody knows our overage at [$4.5 million]. So, we have some constraints, as do several other teams around the league. Our goal was to put the season on the absolute best roster we could put together and try and take a real legitimate run and we failed, no question.”