Tyler Bertuzzi could be missing an ingredient to bolster the Leafs’ top line

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Take two all-star forwards, mix them with a strong left winger, add ice and stir.

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That’s the recipe the Maple Leafs will have on the menu at some point next season, with free agent Tyler Bertuzzi teaming up with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

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“That’s because of coach (Sheldon Keefe),” Bertuzzi said Monday in his first in-person huddle with Toronto media members at the team’s charity golf event at Rattlesnake Point in Milton. “We will see.”

Bertuzzi made a splash among free agents in his short time in Boston with an excellent playoff run (though the team itself was a shocking first-round casualty), scoring 10 points in seven games.

“That was my first taste of playoff hockey, another reason (he wanted to stay with a competitor). To get a feel for it, I would like to be there every year.

“I want to bring my game; Energy, standing in front of the net, chasing pucks.”

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Swapping Bertuzzi for the departed Michael Bunting, who played on the left wing alongside Matthews and Marner for most of the past two seasons, could be a fixture from the first day of camp this week or a throwback after other experiments. At some point it will be too attractive for Keefe to pass up.

As much as the Leafs loved Bunting’s eagerness and chirp factor that irritated opponents, he didn’t show that much with the other two last season, especially when he was removed from the team as part of a major shakeup of the top six Unit was taken for Calle Jarnkrok.

The Leafs were strapped for cash last summer and didn’t make much of an effort to re-sign Bunting, especially with Brad Treliving coming in as general manager. The new team was excited about the signing of Bertuzzi, center/winger Max Domi and potential draft pick Matthew Knies, who could bring the team back to a strong playoff run. Knies could be another option at left wing alongside fellow Arizona native Matthews.

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While Bunting landed in Carolina to play as a second-string winger, Bertuzzi signed here for one year for $5.5 million after playing the majority of his 328 NHL games in non-playoff seasons with the Detroit Red Wings had spent.

“I came here two or three weeks ago to meet all the guys, skate and train and get to know everyone,” Bertuzzi said. “I skated with Auston and Mitch and practiced with them (and other Leafs at the practice facility).”

He, Domi and new defenseman John Klingberg all had strong playoffs in 2023, combining for 27 points in 30 games. The Leafs eventually advanced out of the first round, but Matthews and Marner needed help as the Panthers eliminated them in the conference semifinals.

Bertuzzi is an inch taller and slightly heavier than Bunting, harder to play with and not as prone to jumps like this when killing penalties effectively. The nephew of former NHL player Todd Bertuzzi is also more of a silent type, a challenge in this market.

“Lots of one-word answers,” warned Bertuzzi, smiling. “We’ll see. It’ll be fun, something different and I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”


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https://torontosun.com/sports/hockey/tyler-bertuzzi-could-be-missing-ingredient-to-power-leafs-top-line Tyler Bertuzzi could be missing an ingredient to bolster the Leafs’ top line


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