Why Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi has ‘loved’ Steve Yzerman’s moves this offseason

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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Tyler Bertuzzi doesn’t know when the Detroit Red Wings will play again — it’s already been half a year since their last game — but he’s convinced that when they do, they will be more competitive than last season.

It would be hard not to, considering the 2019-20 Wings won only 17 games (and four of them were against one team, the Montreal Canadiens) when the NHL season shut down March 12 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But Bertuzzi’s optimism is stoked by the moves made over the past month by general manager Steve Yzerman.

Yzerman has, to sum up recent doings, add defensemen Marc Staal, Troy Stecher and Jon Merrill, forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov, and goaltender Thomas Greiss. Yzerman also re-signed forward Sam Gagner, who, like Ryan, shoots right and should liven up a power play that chugged along at 14.9%.

[18 thoughts on Steve Yzerman’s first 18 months running the Detroit Red Wings ]

“I loved the moves,” Bertuzzi said during a call to discuss his $3.5 million arbitration award. “I played with Stecher at the World Championship in the Czech Republic, so I know he’s a good player, good defenseman, two-way guy. Bobby Ryan, he’s a veteran guy that’s going to bring a lot of offense. We signed Gags and we know what he brings. I don’t know much about Merrill. 

“Our team is looking a lot better, I think, than last year and we’re excited to get back.”

Yzerman also cut ties with underperforming veterans including Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson.

Since taking control of the Wings on April 19, 2019, Yzerman has been steadfast in only giving out short-term deals. Forward Anthony Mantha, who is restricted, could be the guy to break that pattern because he’s 26 and has proven himself to be a consistent scoring threat, but he could also wind up with a one-year deal, which is what Bertuzzi ended up with after filing for arbitration. 

Bertuzzi, 25, said the sides had “done a lot of talking,” and that he’s not bothered by being a restricted free agent again next year.

Detroit Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi: ‘Nothing personal at all’ after arbitration ]

“Whether I sign five, four, six years, every year you need to perform and you need to work hard and contribute,” Bertuzzi said. “So even if signed a six-year deal, I’ll play every game like I’m on a one-year deal. I need to prove every year that I’m a good player and I want to contribute to this team.”

When he’ll get to contribute is uncertain, since the pandemic has pushed the start of the 2020-21 season at least into January. The AHL announced this week it is targeting a Feb. 5 start date.

The Wings favor allowing the seven teams that weren’t part of the playoff bubble to meet earlier than the 24 playoff teams that got to play in August. The Wings have not played since March 10.

“We’re all on board with that, get back in it with the coaching staff,” Bertuzzi said. “I think that’s going to be a crucial two weeks for us to dig deep and get things done.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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