The glass of available unrestricted free agents out there is as half-full or half-empty as you want it to be.
There are many players still on the market and unfortunately a good chunk of them will never again play in the NHL. If you consider yourself picky, you might look at the UFA list and say there are only a couple names worth considering.
One UFA who continues to catch my eye is the enigmatic Todd Bertuzzi.
Say what you want about Big Bert and his past crimes of poor judgment, he can still be a useful player on a handful of teams.
The days of Bertuzzi being a 40-goal scorer and point-a-game player are long gone. So are the stipends of $5 million plus per season.
Bertuzzi spent last season in Calgary and earned $1.95 million. The expectation was Bertuzzi could become a regular contributor on the top lines and perhaps score 25 goals and 60 points. It didn’t work out that way.
Injuries limited Bertuzzi to 66 games and he managed just 15 goals and 44 points despite premium minutes with skilled linemates.
Last spring on the eve of the NHL playoffs, CBC analyst Kelly Hrudey made the interesting point Bertuzzi no longer plays a power forward game. He doesn’t get involved physically and regularly passes up opportunities to hit a defenceman or forward in favour of skating the big looping circle. Could’ve been the bad knee he was skating on, but that’s not Darryl Sutter hockey.
The Flames are right up against the salary cap this season after signing Jay Bouwmeester and had no interest in keeping Bertuzzi at anywhere close to $2 million. So what does Bertuzzi do at age 34 and his glory years of being a productive power forward clearly behind him?
Secondary production is an issue for a lot of teams and that’s why I think there’s still room in the NHL for Big Bert. Probably not for $1.95 million, but perhaps for $1.5 million, and maybe in a market that’s a little under the radar. There are still some decent seasons left for Bertuzzi.
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