|The Red Wings announced that Todd Bertuzzi agreed to a new two-year contract extension on Thursday. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– In the prime of his career, Todd Bertuzzi
was an offensive-skilled dynamo playing in Vancouver with a pair of fast, free-wheeling playmakers in Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.
Now, eight years later and more than 1,000 NHL games under his belt, Bertuzzi has managed to retool his game, becoming a solid two-way forward who focuses first on defensive responsibilities.
“You have to if you want to play and play in situations out there,” said Bertuzzi of his recently adapted role with Pavel Datsyuk
and Johan Franzen
. “You have to be responsible in both ends. Fortunately, I get to play with one of the best in the league at stealing pucks and being responsible that way. You don't want to be the one dragging them down. You have to make sure to keep your end of the bargain up.”
Keeping up his end of the deal hasn’t been a problem for Bertuzzi. Actually, it even landed him a shiny new two-year contract extension worth a reported $2.075 million her season.
And as irony would have it, Bertuzzi’s deal was announced on the same day that a bobblehead with his likeness will be distributed among fans at the Wings’ game Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“I think it just worked out that way,” he said. “It's nice to get a bobblehead, being appreciated and all that and I want to thank the fans for voting.”
The 37-year-old Bertuzzi has had a career rebirth, of sort, with the Wings, finding a home on the team’s top forward line. He has 12 goals and 29 points in 54 games this season and has become an incredibly creative shootout threat for the team. He leads the Wings with a 66.7 percent scoring rate and three game-deciding goals in shootouts this season.
He’s also among a long line of veteran players whom the Wings have picked off the NHL trash heap and revitalized their careers with the likes of Danny Cleary
and Mikael Samuelsson, to name a few.
Veteran players migrate to the Wings for the ever-present opportunity to win a Stanley Cup each spring. But general manager Ken Holland would also like to believe that there is an established leadership consistency in the team’s locker room with captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, and Steve Yzerman before him, that helps refine the careers for some older players.
“Then it’s up to the player and Bert’s worked real hard on his conditioning,” Holland said. “I think he’s happy for a lot of reasons. He’s close to his home in Ontario, I know his family’s happy, he likes the hockey program, he’s bought into Mike Babcock’s system. I think he’s really committed to playing a two-way game, when he’s on the third line he’s accepted a lesser role. What is it? I don’t know.
“The other thing is that he’s older. When you’re 20, the way you look at life when you’re 20 to 24 and the way you look at life when you’re 35 to 39, those experiences that you went through effect the way we all look at life. I think we get a lot of guys in their early 30s and their late 20s and their perspective on life is different than it was earlier in their career.”
A former 40-plus goal scorer and a main contributor on the Canucks’ power play, Bertuzzi is thrilled to be in Detroit, and he hopes that he can end his playing career in a Wings’ uniform.
“It's pretty awesome,” said Bertuzzi, who is in his second stint with the Wings. “When it was brought up to me to stay here it was a no-brainer about wanting to play here. I wanted to stay here. It's fun to come down to this rink every night.
“I've always enjoyed – even as a visitor – coming in and playing in this arena. I was just fortunate the second go-around to get a call back from Kenny (Holland) and to comeback and play. It's been a really good fit for myself.”
The security of a two-year deal was nice, Bertuzzi will be 38-years-old at the end of the contract, but he desperately wants to win a Stanley Cup, and Detroit, he said, gives him the best chance of doing that.
“That's the only thing. Getting a deal done was exciting and happy,” he said, “but my whole main goal here is just to win and this is the place to do it.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill