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Bruins GM reacts to Tyler Bertuzzi’s one-year contract with Leafs

Bruins GM reacts to Tyler Bertuzzi’s one-year contract with Leafs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins weren’t able to work out a new contract with free agent left wing Tyler Bertuzzi before NHL free agency, so when the market opened, they needed to pivot to other players.

The result was the Bruins signing five players — forwards Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Brown, as well as defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk — to low-money, short-term contracts.

Bertuzzi was arguably the top forward available entering free agency. He was projected to receive a multi-year deal worth anywhere between $5.5 million and $7 million per season. But that kind of lucrative long-term contract clearly wasn’t available, at least not from a top contender.

Bertuzzi eventually settled for a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This deal angered some Bruins fans because it was only a one-year contract and it wasn’t for a lot of money. It was also with one of the Bruins’ main rivals. Fans were wondering: Why couldn’t the Bruins offer Bertuzzi that kind of deal?

The reason is because signing Bertuzzi to that kind of contract wasn’t an option to the Bruins until after they had made all their signings. B’s general manager Don Sweeney said Friday when speaking to reporters after the final day of the team’s Development Camp that a one-year deal was not the focus of the Bruins’ discussions with Bertuzzi prior to free agency.

“There were players looking for longer term deals. My discussions were focused around that,” Sweeney said. “Some teams were in a good position to absorb shorter term deals at the right numbers. We had to go and fill our gaps. We made the (Taylor Hall trade) to open up the (salary cap) space we needed to. It would have required us to be even more proactive and do deals that we explored but didn’t feel the value was there to open up even more space or to be overly aggressive to do a deal and then have to make a move as a result of that “

The Bruins were not in a position to hold off on making free-agent moves and hope that Bertuzzi’s market might come down. The five veterans they acquired weren’t going to stay unsigned for several days. Sweeney made the correct decision to fill out his roster, especially when you consider that entering Day 1 of free agency Boston had just six forwards and six defensemen under contract for the 2023-24 season.

What’s next for Sweeney?

The Bruins have around $6.9 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, and still need to sign restricted free agent goalie Jeremy Swayman and restricted free agent forward Trent Frederic.

The B’s will also need some cap space available in case veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci decide to return for another season. Sweeney said Friday that there are no new updates on the futures of Bergeron and Krejci.