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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More on Bertuzzi

Two years ago, the Red Wings tried to keep Todd Bertuzzi, offering him a one-year contract. Bertuzzi came to Detroit in March 2007 at the trade deadline, played eight regular-season and 16 playoff games before becoming a free agent. Instead of staying in Detroit, Bertuzzi opted for a longer, more lucrative deal in Anaheim (two seasons, $4 million salary-cap hit).

"We liked him enough that we offered him a contract to stay," said Detroit vice president and general manager Ken Holland. "I've talked to a few guys on our team the past couple of weeks. There's been good vibes in the locker room about Todd. He fit in well."

Now Bertuzzi, a 34-year-old left-handed shot who usually plays right wing is back as a Red Wing, signing a one-year contract worth "close to" $1.5 million.

"He brings experience, size, the potential to score some goals," said Holland. "By signing an NHL guy, there's more depth and options available for (coach) Mike Babcock. And if there are injuries, we have more depth up front."

Bertuzzi came into the NHL in 1995 with the New York Islanders -- the franchise that drafted him 23rd overall in 1993. Bertuzzi blossomed after being traded to Vancouver with Bryan McCabe for Trevor Linden.

With the Canucks, Bertuzzi's goal scoring went from 25 in 2000-01, to 36 the next season to 46 in 2002-03 -- a season in which he led the NHL with 25 power-play goals.

Then, however, came back injuries. The season in which Bertuzzi was traded to Detroit for prospect Shawn Matthias and a second-round draft pick (2006-07), the 6-foot-3 Sudbury native got into just 15 regular-season games.

Since the injuries, Bertuzzi has become a consistent second-tier scoring threat. Two seasons ago, Bertuzzi had 14 goals in 68 games with Anaheim. Last winter, the big winger had 15 goals in 66 games with Calgary. (Anaheim bought out his contract half way into the two-year deal.) After averaging 20 minutes per game in his scoring prime, Bertuzzi got 16:27 of ice time with Anaheim and 18:36 with Calgary.

The addition of Bertuzzi gives the Red Wings enough depth at forward to let second-year pro Justin Abdelkader develop in Grand Rapids. Abdelkader can go back and forth between the NHL and AHL without having to clear waivers.

Bertuzzi is one of three forwards on the Wings who wasn't in Detroit last season, joining Patrick Eaves and another former Red Wing, Jason Williams. All three signed as unrestricted free agents.

With that trio and Darren Helm and Ville Leino, both of whom spent the majority of last season in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings have five fresh faces among their 13 forwards.

Detroit's team salary is approximately $57.771 million which is over the league limit of $56.8 million. That figure, however, includes eight defensemen and Holland has said that the team will work with seven healthy blue-liners. Detroit will likely go with a 22-man roster as it did last season, one under the league limit.

Andreas Lilja, who is still experiencing headaches after being injured in a late-season fight in 2008-08, is the unknown factor. If he's not healthy, Lilja's $1.25 million salary could be hidden on long-term injured reserve for a while. If Lilja is healthy, however, a roster move might be made to trim the blue-line number to seven. The Red Wings' other defensemen are Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Jonathan Ericsson, Brett Lebda and Derek Meech.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Jim said...

I think this move hurts the Wings more than it helps. Sure, it addresses the need for a big, physical presence in your lineup, but as injury prone as Big Bert has been lately, it's a 50/50 shot he'll actually be in there. This move not only takes valuable regular season ice time from the developing players like Helm and Leino, but almost certainly sends Abdelkader back to Grand Rapids. I thought after his performance in the Finals last season, he certainly earned his shot at the roster. With this new signing, Bertuzzi might as well be driving Abdelkader back to the Griffins himself.

August 18, 2009 at 6:27 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the fact that the Wings picked up a veteran instead of banking on the fact that Helm, Leino, and Abdelkader will all be able to handle an entire season at the pro level. This way if either Helm or Leino is showing some fatigue or burnout they can always send them down and bring up Abdelkader. Keeps a healthy competition and a little motivation going with the kids. Nothing wrong with that. Plus having Holmstrom, Franzen, Bertuzzi, and Cleary, as options for net crashers on 3 of your 4 lines ain't the worst thing ever.

AND... it's only a one-year contract. Same as Williams. No harm no foul.

August 19, 2009 at 10:03 AM 
Blogger WPG Wing said...

Good signing. Bertz contact is only $1.5M which means his expectation is only a 3rd line winger. His expectation will be that he will be hurt for 10-25 games which allows for a soft transition for Abdelkader to play 10-25 games (or more depending on Homer's health) for the Wings and top line confidence building minues in GR. His performance in the finals was OK, it showed he had tons of potential but he was a little wide eyed. One more year and 10 more Lbs and he's a 2nd line NHL winger.

August 19, 2009 at 10:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abdelkader needs to be in the minors this season. Better him playing 20+ minutes in GR than 5 minutes a game with the Wings. He will be up when injuries happen and most likely with the team next season. I am happy to have big bert back. He had a decent season last year and should have just as good or even better with the Wings. Welcome back Bertuzzi!

August 19, 2009 at 10:13 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce, with Lilja most likely on long term IR and Abdelkader going to GR does that mean the Wings don't have to trade anyone to fit Bertuzzi under the cap?

August 19, 2009 at 10:15 AM 
Anonymous Garth said...

So...you haven't explained how it hurts...

Abdelkader was always going to be playing in GR this year, Holland said as much months ago.

And far from hurting Leino and Helm, it takes pressure off of them and allows them to develop at their own speed.

He adds some physicality, some sandpaper and secondary scoring.

And can you explain how it's a "50/50" shot? He played 68 and 66 games in the last two seasons, not 41 and 41. He played more than 3/4s of each season and contributed 40+ points each year.

If/when he is injured, he's one of 13 NHL forwards, so we'll have an NHL-ready forward to step in and take his place and won't have to rely on a mediocre defenseman to fill in a forward spot like we did last year.

And frankly, if Ken Holland is happy with it and if the boys in the dressing room are for it, that's enough for me.

August 19, 2009 at 10:28 AM 
Blogger WPG Wing said...

Good signing. Bertz contact is only $1.5M which means his expectation is only a 3rd line winger. His expectation will be that he will be hurt for 10-25 games which allows for a soft transition for Abdelkader to play 10-25 games (or more depending on Homer's health) for the Wings and top line confidence building minues in GR. His performance in the finals was OK it showed he had tons of potential but he was a little wide eyed. One more year and 10 more Lbs and he's a 2nd line NHL winger.

August 19, 2009 at 10:29 AM 
Anonymous Steve said...

There's nothing wrong with Abdelkader playing another year in Grand Rapids (see Darren Helm). Holland has stated repeatedly that the organization likes their younger guys "over ripe".

August 19, 2009 at 2:31 PM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

If Lilja's on LTIR, the Wings don't need to make any moves to get under the cap.

August 19, 2009 at 2:57 PM 
Anonymous Voline said...

I hope Lilja's going to be okay. He was having a really good year, such a shame to go down like that in a meaningless game.

Off-topic: Mirtle has an interesting article up today about which owners form Bettman's "power base" within the Board of Governors. Bruce, do you have any idea where Illitch comes down on this? Has he been a big Bettman-backer or more of a skeptic? Is he even the Wings' seat on the BOG, or is it Devellano or Holland?

August 20, 2009 at 12:35 PM 

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