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.