SEATTLE — Tyler Bertuzzi was looking forward to getting home again, even as he had just joined his Detroit Red Wings teammates a day before the end of a long trip.
It has been an exciting week for Bertuzzi, whose fiancee, Ashley Greasley, gave birth to their first child, daughter Kinsley Lea, on March 11. That was the same day the Wings left for Canada, where Bertuzzi can’t play under current border regulations because he has opted not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
He arrived in Seattle on Friday, and was on the ice for the morning skate at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday. As busy as he has been at home — Bertuzzi joked he’s still mastering changing diapers — the forward knows his name has come up as a possibility to be traded by Monday’s deadline.
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He hopes it doesn’t happen.
“I love it here,” Bertuzzi said. “Not once have I ever said I want to leave. This is where I want to be. Whatever is out there is false. I want to be a Red Wing.”
Bertuzzi said neither he nor his agent have had a conversation with general manager Steve Yzerman about a trade. Bertuzzi, 27, is under contract through next season at a $4.75 million salary cap hit. Yzerman has dipped into the younger group of players at this time of year in the past, trading Anthony Mantha with minutes to spare before the 2021 deadline and shipping out Andreas Athanasiou at the 2020 deadline. Mantha and Athanasiou were both underperforming, though, whereas Bertuzzi is having a career season. He took 24 goals into the Kraken game, his first in more than a week. That the Wings are better with him in the lineup shows: They are 1-5 in Canada.
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“Our record says we miss him a lot,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s a really good player for us. We’re not exceptionally deep in those types of offensive players to begin with, and so when you don’t have him, you certainly miss him. He just does tons of stuff —he’s on our penalty kill, he’s on our power play, he’s a 6-on-5, 5-on-6 guy. He’s strong. Wins puck battles. He’s a lot of engine as well, so he’s a big piece of what we do.”
Bertuzzi’s appeal to a team eyeing a run for the Stanley Cup is clear, but it’s complicated by the restrictions on his travel because of his anti-vaccine stance. Even in the Eastern Conference, where the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only Canadian team in playoff position, there’s a risk he would be unavailable for one postseason series’ road games.
Blashill said he addressed the need to focus on work and not trade rumors with the team’s leadership group earlier in the week. Even for the coaching staff, this can be a stressful time of year.
“As a coach, you’d like to have everything set and planned for,” Blashill said. “This is a little more like the AHL, where at the last minute you may get a call and all of a sudden that person is out of the lineup. That happened with Mantha — it was kind of right at the end of the deadline period, and the trade was made, and you adjust. But I think everybody knows that you kind of potentially have to adjust, including the coaching staff. It’s a matter of keeping your group focused on the task at hand, and sometimes that’s easier than others.”
The Wings opted to fly back to Detroit on a red-eye flight following Saturday’s game, rather than later Sunday. That was fine with Bertuzzi, who knew he was wanted back on sleep-patrol duty for Kinsley.
“I’m looking forward to playing and getting back home to see her,” Bertuzzi said. “She’s so young and the sleep hasn’t been the best.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.