Tyler Bertuzzi hit the open market in NHL free agency in search of a long-term deal. It marked the first time the veteran winger had the opportunity to pick where he wanted to play in his NHL career. And Bertuzzi wanted to cash in on a solid track record in the league as someone who plays with energy and can score goals.

However, things didn't exactly work out that way. The first day of NHL free agency came and went with Bertuzzi still unsigned. It seemed as if the second day of free agency would also pass without the veteran forward signing with a team.

That was until the Toronto Maple Leafs came calling. And in the end, Bertuzzi came to an agreement on a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs. He will earn $5.5 million in 2023-24, with most of that being in signing bonuses. Bertuzzi also has a no-movement clause in this deal.

So, how does this deal look on paper? How well did Bertuzzi and the Maple Leafs do in these negotiations? Let's hand out grades for Tyler Bertuzzi and the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL free agency.

Tyler Bertuzzi history

Before we get into the actual contract, let's look at Bertuzzi's history in the NHL. He entered the league as a second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings back in 2013. The 28-year-old made his debut in 2016.

Bertuzzi broke out in 2018-19, scoring 21 goals and 47 points in 73 games. He followed that up with another 21-goal performance the very next season. However, 2020-21 saw Bertuzzi play just nine games due to injury.

He bounced back in a major way in 2021-22. The 28-year-old scored a career-high 30 goals and 62 points that season. And this success came in spite of missing games due to COVID vaccination requirements in Canada.

This past season, however, saw Bertuzzi experience a few more injury struggles. His value was high enough to earn a trade to the Boston Bruins right before the deadline, though. And Bertuzzi thrived in the playoffs, posting 10 points in seven games for the Bruins.

Tyler Bertuzzi signs with Maple Leafs

Now, let's take a look at the one-year agreement between Bertuzzi and the Maple Leafs. Part of the reason the Red Wings traded Bertuzzi back in March is because the two sides couldn't agree to an extension.

The 28-year-old forward reportedly wanted term on his next contract. And Detroit simply wasn't willing to give him the term he desired. He also reportedly wanted term in negotiations with the Boston Bruins.

The fact he had to settle for a one-year contract isn't the greatest look. Especially given that he turned away two different teams in his search for a long-term agreement. However, it isn't as bad of a look as it usually would be.

Next season, the salary cap in the NHL is expected to jump up. Bertuzzi can prove himself with the Maple Leafs before hitting the open market next summer. Then, he should be able to get the term he desires.

The 28-year-old controls his fate with the no-movement clause. And he'll make a pretty penny, as well. But the fact he didn't look for a short-term contract out of the gate given his injury struggles this season probably hurt him this summer.

Maple Leafs sign Tyler Bertuzzi

So, what are the Maple Leafs getting out of this? If healthy, Bertuzzi is an incredible offensive talent. He is a true heart-and-soul type of player who can score goals and energize his teammates.

This is a worthy risk for the Maple Leafs to take this summer. Bertuzzi could come in, post elite numbers, and help the Maple Leafs go on a deep playoff run this season. If that happens, this is an absolute steal.

The 28-year-old could also come in and not produce for whatever reason. In that unfortunate reality, Toronto is only tied to the veteran forward for this upcoming season. They could simply move on next summer if things don't work out. Either way, there is no risk in seeing what Bertuzzi can do in a Maple Leafs sweater.

Grades and final thoughts

Tyler Bertuzzi receives a high mark for receiving market-value money while also making a rather smart bet on himself. His earlier insistence on receiving term, and the subsequent settling for a one-year deal, drags that mark down just a bit.

The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, receive a higher mark. They take a one-year swing on one of the NHL's more energizing players. There's little risk involved for Toronto, and the rewards could be through the roof if the 28-year-old veteran forward stays healthy.

Tyler Bertuzzi grade: B+

Toronto Maple Leafs grade: A+