Sports Sunday

Why couldn't Bruins re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi early in free agency?

Not only did Bertuzzi depart the Bruins in free agency, he joined one of their main rivals.

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Many Boston Bruins fans were hoping the team would be able to re-sign left wing Tyler Bertuzzi in NHL free agency.

Not only is Bertuzzi a really talented and productive player -- he tallied 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 28 games with the Bruins last season, including the playoffs -- he plays the type of hard-nosed, power forward-type of hockey that fans in this region love.

Unfortunately for the Bruins and their fans, Bertuzzi did not come back to Boston on a new contract. He also took his talents to one of the Bruins' main rivals and top competitors in the Eastern Conference -- the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Bruins reportedly had interest in re-signing Bertuzzi, but general manager Don Sweeney said Saturday that it was unlikely the veteran left wing would be back. Sweeney cited both contract term and AAV (annual average value) as reasons for why a Bertuzzi return was unlikely.

So, how did he end up with the Leafs on just a one-year deal with a team-friendly $5.5 million cap hit?

"With Dmitry Orlov, they knew they were out a long time ago," 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson said on NBC Sports Boston's "Sports Sunday." "They knew they weren't going to be able to match that contract. He was a mercenary by design and he was gone as soon as he hit July 1. There was no way they could make that work.

"With Tyler Bertuzzi, I actually think his agent screwed things up here. I imagine the Bruins had a better offer. I imagine the Bruins offered probably the equivalent of four years, $20 million. Bertuzzi's agent probably thought, 'We can get better than that on the market.' So they go out and try to get it and what happens? They settle for a one-year, $5.5 million contract."

When the Bruins traded Taylor Hall and his $6 million salary cap hit to the Chicago Blackhawks last week, it was assumed they would use that cap room to re-sign Bertuzzi.

But when free agency opened Saturday and the Bruins didn't have a deal with Bertuzzi, Sweeney had to move on to other targets and fill out his roster, which he did with five veteran signings (four forwards, one defenseman) over the weekend.

"I was on board with trading Taylor Hall if you got Tyler Bertuzzi," Anderson said. "And I feel like, if they could go back in time, Tyler Bertuzzi signs a contract that was presented to him by the Bruins. The idea they weren't negotiating or that he was unrelated -- I don't believe that. I do believe that if the Bruins had it their way, they would've traded Taylor Hall and used the $6 million to re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi for about $5 million (per year), maybe a little less, and one role player. And then you have two players for what we were paying one. I think that's what they would do if they could do it over. But it didn't work out that way, and (the Bruins) had to pivot. As much as Tyler Bertuzzi had to pivot, the Bruins had to pivot. They have to fill out a roster. They had six forwards, six defensemen and one goalie signed. They couldn't wait for Tyler Bertuzzi's price to maybe go down when all indications were that it would not go down."

The Bruins could circle back to Bertuzzi next summer when he's a free agent again -- assuming he doesn't re-sign with Toronto before that -- and they have more salary cap space.

But in the meantime, Bruins fans should circle Nov. 2 on their calendar because that's when the B's host the Leafs at TD Garden for the first time in the upcoming 2023-24 season.

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