Detroit — It’s not often that a handful of games will change the trajectory of a team’s future, but it appears a five-game winning streak for the Detroit Red Wings has done just that.
According to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, the Wings’ recent run has lessened their desire to move veteran winger and impending free agent Tyler Bertuzzi. Though the Red Wings haven’t amassed the point total that would earn a playoff spot, Detroit would make the playoffs by points percentage if the season ended Saturday.
“That has led to the belief that, at least for the time being, Tyler Bertuzzi is not available, and the Red Wings will keep him as long as they (continue) their run to the playoffs through the trade deadline,” Friedman said on a Saturday segment on SportsNet.
“Things can always change but…that looks like where it stands.”
Friedman had previously reported that several teams were kicking the tires on Bertuzzi, including the Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers.
Bertuzzi, 27, was thought to be a prime trade target heading into the March 3 trade deadline. His two-year deal ($4.75 million AAV) is set to expire at the end of this season. He missed considerable time in two of his last three seasons — including two stints on injured reserve this season after breaking both of his hands — and will likely be looking for significant term on his next deal.
Still, his recent play would signify that he’s starting to find his groove. He has five points in his last three games, including a one-goal, two-assist performance in Thursday’s win over the Calgary Flames. As he’s gone, so have the Wings: Detroit is just three points out of a playoff spot with a whopping five games in hand on the current 8-seed New York Islanders.
Bertuzzi is coming off a career season. He had 62 points (30 goals, 32 assists) in 68 games during the 2021-22 season. On Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Bertuzzi suited up for his 300th NHL game.
Detroit has missed the playoffs in six consecutive seasons and hasn’t come close to a playoff spot in that span.
While the Wings’ recent run probably hasn’t convinced general manager Steve Yzerman that the team is ready to contend for a Stanley Cup, his reported decision to not move Bertuzzi would seem to indicate that he would at least like to see the team’s young corps play meaningful hockey down the stretch run.
If the Red Wings don’t trade Bertuzzi at the deadline, they will risk losing him for nothing if they are unable to extend him before free agency begins this summer. Detroit on Thursday signed 28-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta to a two-year contract extension worth $3 million AAV.
From an asset management standpoint, the implication here is that Yzerman is either planning to revisit contract negotiations upon deciding not to trade Bertuzzi, or taking a calculated risk that the potential experience gained by his team this year would be more valuable than whatever trade package Detroit could get for him.
Or, the third option: Yzerman is still planning to trade Bertuzzi and is using the leverage of his team’s position in the standings to jack up the price.