Maple Leafs’ Bertuzzi & Domi: Long Term or One-and-Done?

Being an old guy, I’ve had a chance to watch hockey for a long time. One thing that’s happened in my lifetime is that there has been an increase in player movement between NHL teams. It used to be that most players spent their entire careers with one team and became “lifelong” players. 

The Fact Is That More Players Are Moving More Often

In recent decades, there has been a significant rise in player movement within the NHL. Players are changing teams more frequently than ever before. This shift is evident when examining player movement by decade. 

In the 1960s-1970s, long-term loyalty to a single franchise was common, with players often spending their entire careers with one team. However, the 1980s-1990s saw the impact of unrestricted free agency, making it less common for players to stay with one team throughout their careers. 

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The introduction of the salary cap in the 2004-05 season further accelerated player movement. From 2010 to the present day, it has continued to increase. In this case, the movement is driven by factors like frequent trades, free agency decisions, and shorter contracts. These trends collectively underscore the notable increase in player movement between NHL teams in recent years.

Coming Back to Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi

The fact is that even the really good players get traded regularly. It’s becoming more of a way of life that, in professional hockey, roster stability and long-term player commitments just don’t happen that much. 

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, two players –  Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi – have recently come to the team. Both could have the potential to stay with the team. But, will they? 

Related: Maple Leafs Lineup Is Tougher & More Skilled with Domi & Bertuzzi

Right now, both players are signed to one-year contracts. So the question arises: “Could they become fixtures in the Maple Leafs’ lineup beyond their current deals?” That’s the topic of this post. 

Max Domi Came to the Team Wanting to Stay

Domi’s arrival in Toronto reminds me of flying halfway around the world and getting off a plane looking for someone holding your name on a sign. It was almost as if Domi to the Maple Leafs came carrying a sign that said “Toronto Is Home: I Want to Stay.”

Unless we’re hearing wrong, Domi was excited to come to Toronto and he’s entering the season hoping to show enough so the team will want him back next season. He’s committed to his desire to stay a Maple Leafs player. His one-year contract becomes a chance to prove himself and earn a more significant and longer role with the team. 

Max Domi Dallas Stars
Max Domi, Dallas Stars (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Domi’s journey with the Maple Leafs will likely evolve into a long-term partnership, provided certain conditions are met. First, his on-ice performance is the key to opening the team’s commitment to him beyond this current contract. If he shows consistency and becomes a valuable contributor, the Maple Leafs will likely start contract discussions early in the season.

The financial aspect of Domi signing a potential long-term contract also comes into play. Almost everyone I read about or hear talking seems to believe he will become a younger Mark Giordano or Jason Spezza. Although his career is still unfolding, there seems to be a willingness on his part to negotiate a fair contract that aligns with the team’s salary-cap constraints. Such a team-friendly deal would allow the Maple Leafs to secure his services for multiple years while maintaining cap flexibility.

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If he plays well, expect Domi’s commitment to the organization to play the biggest role in his being a longer-term roster player. If he desires to remain a Maple Leaf and is willing to make financial concessions, look for him to sign a multi-year deal. 

The word is also that Domi has value beyond his on-ice contributions. He’s rumoured to be a good teammate, which in the past anyway has aligned with the team’s culture.

Tyler Bertuzzi (I’m Guessing) Is Looking for a Payday

Although Bertuzzi hails from Sudbury, Ontario, that doesn’t mean he grew up a Maple Leafs fan. My guess, and it’s just based on the fact that his uncle Todd Bertuzzi played with the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, and Calgary Flames, is that he didn’t grow up cheering for the Maple Leafs. 

Tyler Bertuzzi Boston Bruins
Tyler Bertuzzi, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That doesn’t mean that he won’t want to stay, however. But, I’m guessing he’s here to leverage the chance of having a great season into a longer-term and higher-paying contract, which likely won’t be with the Maple Leafs. 

Like Domi, Bertuzzi was signed to a one-year contract. He brings with him the reputation of being a gritty and versatile forward who will add depth and physicality to the team’s roster. His tenure with the team is iffy and the possibility of his signing a long-term commitment remains uncertain.

Related: Maple Leafs Can Expect a Breakout From Bertuzzi This Season

The potential for a long-term Bertuzzi contract hinges on several factors. First, his on-ice performance during the upcoming season will play a pivotal role in shaping the Maple Leafs’ desires. If Bertuzzi thrives and prospers in his role, it might be an incentive for the team to consider a multi-year extension.

The financial aspect also comes into play – big time, I’m thinking. Toronto’s salary cap situation is always tight. Can the team both accommodate Bertuzzi’s demands and maintain cap flexibility? If Bertuzzi were willing to negotiate a team-friendly deal, that could tip the scales in favour of a long-term deal. But, smart money would bet against that happening.

All this assumes that Bertuzzi even “fits” into the team’s lineup. There will be a ton of competition. In addition, the Maple Leafs’ roster has talent both here and coming through the organization. Next season might look different with the likes of Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten emerging on the scene. 

Fraser Minten Toronto Maple Leafs
Fraser Minten, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bertuzzi needs to prove that he both belongs and excels on the team. He’ll need to carve out a role and make a significant impact. If he can’t, it will be a simple one-and-done deal. He’s likely to be on the move.

The Bottom Line

As the regular season begins, the possible futures of Domi and Bertuzzi with the Maple Leafs will be intriguing storylines. Both players have a chance to sign contracts that could secure their places in the team’s long-term plans. However, they need to put up strong performances and be willing to fit into the Maple Leafs’ financial needs. 

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If I were a betting man, I’d say yes to Domi and no to Bertuzzi staying for a longer haul. Whatever happens, I hope they both play amazing hockey for the Blue & White this season.

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