In this editon of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll take a look at three current Maple Leafs players. The fact is that perhaps only one of them will be returning to the team next season.
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Quick Hit One: Wayne Simmonds Has Been Playing Well
While this is probably his last NHL season, Wayne Simmonds has been playing well for the Maple Leafs. Sure, he’s only playing limited minutes and he’s usually only put into a game if the coaching staff suspects there might be a physical aspect of the game. However, in Wednesday’s game against the Florida Panthers, he was responsible for doing some heavy lifting that helped his team’s scoring.
Simmonds’ physicality has always been a key part of his game, and it’s understandable that at 34 years old and after years of taking hits, his effectiveness might be diminishing. However, it was great to see that he’s still making an impact on the ice and contributing to the team’s success.
Given what we’ve seen over the past couple of games, should the Maple Leafs experience some injuries and need a player to step up, Simmonds could be a valuable asset to have in the lineup. Overall, it’s hard not to like the guy. For me, it’s always good to see a veteran player like the Wayne Train continue to perform at a high level, even as he gets older.
Quick Hit Two: Give It Up for (to) Mitch Marner
Plain and simple, Mitch Marner is having a fantastic season. His hockey skills and his on-ice intelligence make him a formidable opponent on the ice. That he has the ability to score and create highlight-reel plays is a testament to his talent. That’s pretty obvious to fans; however, perhaps his teammates have an even great appreciation for the young forward.
With his latest point streak, Marner now has the potential to surpass the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. More and more, he’s becoming recognized as one of the best players in the NHL. That said, it it possible that fans don’t appreciate Marner’s defense as much as his offense?
The truth is that Marner is a solid two-way play who piles up the minutes on both special teams. He’s perhaps even better as a penalty-killer than he is with the man advantage. His league-leading number of takeaways (98 thus far, and he might be the only NHL player to have 100 takeaways this season) and significant minutes on the penalty kill demonstrate his commitment to defensive play and willingness to take on tough matchups.
Perhaps even more interesting is that this season some analysts are sharing their thoughts that Marner should be considered for the Selke Trophy. That award is usually given to a center (Aleksander Barkov won it last season). However, Marner’s ability to excel in both offensive and defensive zones makes him a possibility to at least get some votes for this prestigious award.
Related: Four Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 3-2 OT Loss to Panthers
Takeaway Three: Would Michael Bunting Sign a Team-Friendly Contract?
The last time Michael Bunting was a free agent, he came home to sign with the Maple Leafs on a bargain contract. After this season, Bunting will be a free agent once again. There’s little possibility that the team wouldn’t want him to return. However, at what price?
I have to think that both the player and the team would like to sign a contract that links themselves together. However, given the fact that Bunting was just named to be the very top free agent available this offseason, it means that he’ll likely be getting a ton of offers. What might he decide to do in free agency?
He had a breakout season in 2021-22 with the Maple Leafs, and he’s not doing badly again this season. That means there will likely be significant interest from other NHL teams in obtaining his services. The result? His price tag is headed upwards. If Bunting receives offers above what the Maple Leafs are willing to pay, is it possible he might choose to sign elsewhere? Of course he would.
However, I don’t think that is what he wants to do. Bunting might be willing to sign a team-friendly contract to stay home in Toronto. He’s a Scarborough native. He’s also been pretty clear that he wants to play for his hometown team. Given those two things, he might be willing to take a pay cut to continue play for the Maple Leafs.
However, given his strong performance this season and his status as a highly sought-after free agent, that idea could go out the window. The truth is that I’d have to believe Bunting will get an offer north of $3.5 million. Would the Maple Leafs be willing (or able) to pay that much?
We will see in a few months.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Matthews, Marner & ZAR
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March 31, 2023 at 2:05 am
Simmonds: Adios, with a big smile. Thanks for helping the way you have 🙂
Marner: Playoffs are only a number of games away. Time to prove you can play at an elite level while being constantly harassed.
Bunting: Good on you for pricing yourself out of the Leaf lineup next year. All the best while Leafs find another who does the same thing for min wage.
March 31, 2023 at 2:48 am
If MB does not sign an teamfriendly deal with leafs. Then they should not sign him
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