Most players that file for salary arbitration never reach it, instead settling on contract terms in the days preceding their scheduled hearing. That wasn’t the case for Tyler Bertuzzi, whose hearing was held over the weekend with the Detroit Red Wings. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Bertuzzi has received the arbitrator’s decision today, awarding him a one-year $3.5MM contract.
Bertuzzi had filed for $4.25MM, while the Red Wings had filed for $3.15MM. That means the deal comes in slightly closer to the Red Wings side of things but still landed in the middle like usual.
The award is not above the “walkaway” threshold, meaning it is binding and will be signed by both parties in the coming days. Bertuzzi, 25, will still be a restricted free agent when the contract expires and will be eligible for arbitration once again.
A $3.5MM salary actually makes Bertuzzi the fourth-highest paid forward on the Red Wings, something he certainly deserves after the last two seasons. The scrappy, in-your-face forward has recorded consecutive 21-goal campaigns, actually leading the Red Wings in 2019-20. His ability to get under opponents’ skin while also contributing at the offensive end is something not easily found in the NHL, making him an important piece for Detroit to build around.
Unless, of course, the team decides to build around the next wave of prospects instead. Given Bertuzzi’s proximity to free agency and ability to take another one-year arbitration award that would walk him right to the open market, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman could potentially dangle him as trade bait if they decide not to (or believe they can’t) sign him long-term. Anthony Mantha, who decided not to file for arbitration, could potentially be in the same situation.
The Red Wings minor league system is filling up with extremely talented youngsters that will soon be the core of the NHL roster, while Dylan Larkin remains the only player signed through the 2022-23 season (not counting entry-level contracts). A one-year deal for Bertuzzi certainly doesn’t guarantee he’ll be around the next time the team is competitive.