Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi ‘grateful’ after arbitration, ready to ‘prove myself again’

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
| The Detroit News

Detroit — Tyler Bertuzzi has no hard feeling toward the Red Wings.

Sure, Bertuzzi basically lost his salary arbitration hearing, Tuesday’s decision coming in at a $3.5 million salary for Bertuzzi (he filed for $4.25 million and the Wings $3.15 million), but again, no hard feelings.

There’s no disappointment about the arbitration decision, or the fact Bertuzzi and the Wings weren’t able to work out a long-term contract.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed,” Bertuzzi said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters. “No, I’m very grateful to get this opportunity and I’m just going to go out and prove myself again this year, like I have been the last few years.”

Bertuzzi, 25, a 2013 second-round draft choice, led the Wings with 21 goals last season — the second consecutive year he scored 21. Bertuzzi also had 27 assists, for a career-high 48 points, while earning a $1.4 million.

Bertuzzi didn’t sound at all frustrated by the give and take during Sunday’s arbitration hearing.

“It was a little different than anything I’ve been through, but it went smoothly and we’re happy we got a deal done and I’m happy to be back,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s something some people will never go through, and some teams don’t go through it, but at the end of the day, I’m playing hockey this year and we’re going to go and try to win some games.”

Bertuzzi likely has surpassed the expectations of some talent evaluators, posting 119 points (49 goals, 70 assists) in 199 games, a little over two NHL seasons.

There was speculation, and probably a bit of an expectation, Bertuzzi’s representation and general manager Steve Yzerman, would work out a longer-term deal.

But given the uncertainty of the NHL financial climate going forward, because of the pandemic, and a flat $81.5 million salary cap for the foreseeable future, it just didn’t work out.

Despite whatever the term was going to be, Bertuzzi said, his gritty style of play wasn’t, or isn’t, going to change.

“Whether you sign for five, or four, or six years, every year you need to perform and work hard and contribute,” Bertuzzi said. “Even if I signed a six-year deal, I’ll play every game like I’m on a one-year deal.

“Whatever the term was, it didn’t matter. I go out and play hockey every day and train hard and try the best I can, night in and night out.”

Bertuzzi is eager to get the next NHL regular season started — whenever that’ll be.

Bertuzzi is skating and scrimmaging at local rinks with Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Luke Glendening and Robby Fabbri, among others, and getting back into hockey shape.

“We see each other every day and we’re working out hard together, and obviously we’re skating and playing little games,” Bertuzzi said. “Scrimmages here and there and trying to keep up in game shape and game feeling.

“We’re doing a good job as a team and group to try and get better.”

As the calendar inches closer to November, the NHL normally would be into its second month of games, and playing and practicing would be a daily part of a hockey player’s life.

But these aren’t normal times.

“For sure, it’s very weird,” Bertuzzi said. “We’d be getting back at it, already into the season. It’s a very different feeling and approach, whether you have to monitor working out and when to take days off, when to start to amp up. Once we know a final date when the season will start, we can base everything off that, but right now, it’s very different for sure.”

But, yes, Bertuzzi is optimistic there will be an actual hockey season at some point.

“You don’t know what to think. It changes every day, something changes every day, but that’s our life, we’re here to play hockey,” Bertuzzi said. “We want to play hockey and we’re looking forward to when it starts, hopefully in the near future.”

Bertuzzi is excited about the Wings’ personnel moves, re-signing forward Sam Gagner, acquiring defenseman Marc Staal in a trade, and signing free agent forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov, defensemen Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher (who Bertuzzi played with for Canada during the world championships two years ago), and goaltender Thomas Greiss.

“I loved the moves,” Bertuzzi said. “I played with Stecher, I know he’s a good player, a good defenseman, a two-way guy, and Bobby Ryan is a guy that will bring a lot of offense. It’s looking good, obviously a lot better than last year, and we’re excited to get back.

“We need to play better as a group. We need to be a lot better and with the new guys coming in, and our mentality going into this season, we’re looking forward to get back at it.”

Buyout window opens

Because of the arbitration decision, the Wings get another 24-hour buyout window starting Thursday, if they so desire.

Realistically, only one player might be in danger: forward Frans Nielsen.

With two more years on his contract remaining, Nielsen has a salary cap hit of $5.25 million those two seasons.

With a buyout, the Wings would be hit for a $3.416 million charge this season and $4.416 million next year, followed by a $666,667 salary cap hit for the final two years.

Nielsen, 36, is coming off his poorest season with the Wings, with nine points (four goals, five assists) in 60 games. Nielsen signed a six-year contract worth, $31.5 million before the start of the 2016 season, after spending 10 years with the New York Islanders.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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