The 32-year-old winger agreed to an US$8-million, two-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night, a day after Detroit Red Wings teammate Mathieu Schneider headed to Southern California.
“It’s pretty special when the defending Stanley Cup champions find a way to fit me in,” Bertuzzi said in a conference call from his home in Kitchener, Ont.
Bertuzzi had seven points (3-4) in 16 playoff games with the Wings last season after playing in only 15 regular-season games with Florida and Detroit, totalling 11 points (3-8) while making $5.27 million.
The rugged winger asked agent Pat Morris to see if the Ducks had room for him after it was clear Morris and Detroit GM Ken Holland weren’t going to work out a deal in Detroit.
“A player of that calibre wants to come to Anaheim, I’d better be interested. That’s my job,” Ducks GM Brian Burke said from Vancouver. “I’ve obviously been through some battles with Todd on my side. I can attest to his character and I’m proud to have him back on my team.”
Bertuzzi hopes to get a fresh start in Anaheim after being dogged by controversy for the past few seasons. His contributions have been largely overshadowed by questions surrounding his health and his 2004 on-ice assault of Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore.
He’ll have plenty of support in Anaheim. He’ll be reunited with Burke, who brought Bertuzzi to Vancouver where he had a career-high 97 points in 2002-03 and was named a first-team all-star.
“He runs an organization second-to-none, always classy and always done right,” Bertuzzi said of Burke. “Brian always instilled confidence in me when I was in Vancouver. When I was going through a couple of bad games he’d come down, give me a pep talk and get me going again.”
Bertuzzi will also suit up again with good friend Brad May. The veteran tough guy helped sell Bertuzzi on the move to California.
“Seeing what he’s gone through here and how much he loves the city . . . obviously that means a lot when you’re making a decision,” Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi was drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round of the 1993 NHL draft, but his career took off when Burke, then the Canucks GM, pried him from the Islanders in a lopsided deal on Feb. 6, 1998. Burke acquired Bertuzzi and defenceman Bryan McCabe and a draft pick in exchange for veteran forward Trevor Linden.
Bertuzzi became an elite power forward in Vancouver, playing in the 2003 and 2004 all-star games. But his success was overshadowed for his on-ice attack on Moore. He punched Moore from behind and drove his head to the ice, breaking Moore’s neck and ending his career.
Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the 2003-04 season and the playoffs. The 2004-05 season was wiped out by a lockout.
“What happened that night changed a lot of things for a lot of people,” said Burke. “On a rational level you could make an argument that I should want nothing to do with Todd Bertuzzi.
“But it was an error in judgment. An unfortunate one and a serious one but an error in judgment. I’ve made errors in judgment too. I’m big on second chances, I’m big on people being given an opportunity to prove that it was a mistake.”
After a successful post-lockout season in Vancouver, he was traded to Florida with Bryan Allen and Alex Auld in exchange for Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a draft pick on June 23, 2006. While Luongo flourished in Vancouver, Bertuzzi fought back injuries in Florida before being dealt to the Red Wings.
He came back to score three goals and add four assists in 16 playoff games with the Red Wings.
“Obviously I know it’s unfortunate that I’ve had some things drag me down but I know that my game is still there,” Bertuzzi said.