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Here we are again talking about Tyler Bertuzzi. There were some rumours about Bertuzzi and the Leafs in 2021, as the obvious exit of Zach Hyman was playing out. The Leafs signed Michael Bunting instead, and got a player for very little cap hit who brought some small percentage of what Hyman had to the top line.
Now it's two years later, Bunting is in Carolina, and Bertuzzi is back in the picture because, while his cap hit is going to shake out as similar to Buntings, he adds a lot more.
Bunting had some good offence generation and really unpleasant defensive results last year – better the year before. This is a theme of the Leafs. A lot of top players were better in 2021-2022 than they were last year. The why of that is really hard to pin down, but the big picture is that the NHL as a whole increased its offensive production and its scoring and the Leafs just didn't. Defending got harder might just be the bulk of the answer as to why that is.
Meanwhile Bertuzzi was traded by Detroit to the Bruins and they seemed to like him, and just chose not to re-sign him.
In the general sense, Bertuzzi is a very good offence generator (this doesn't mean he gets points, it means he makes offence happen around him) who has a net zero impact defensively. Net zero in the defensive zone counts as very good for a winger, particularly a big minute support winger on the top six.
Last season, he repeated that overall kind of game, while not scoring as much as usual. His shooting didn't change, and he's not a high-volume shooter, but his shooting percentage was well below expected. His shooting locations were normal as well. It was likely just one of those things – a down year.
His own goal scoring is just a bonus, though. Bertuzzi's role is to be the aggressive forechecker, net-front annoyance, general asshole and difficult to play against centre of irritation on a line with other guys busy doing sick-hands tricks.
In his favour on that score is that he takes very few penalties while drawing a lot with his personal charm.
He is a fit for the actual problem the Leafs have – getting and keeping Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares in the offensive zone in good position to score.
He's a big value-add offensively, and he's better than most wingers at the so-called 200 ft game. You might not like him, but he is the right player of those available to make a meaningful addition in the top six.