Michael Bunting becomes a free agent soon, and it’s unsure if his future lies with the Maple Leafs.
Bunting wanted to play in Toronto when he joined the team two seasons ago, and one would guess he would still wish to. He had strong performances during his two years with the Maple Leafs. However, he’s been walking the line between being a valuable pest and having an over-the-top behaviour problem.
Some fans wonder if his playoff suspension crossed that line and put a damper on the team’s desire to have him.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Trade Matthews, Marner, or Nylander
Question One: How Much Does Bunting’s Offensive Promise Weigh on the Scales?
Bunting has shown promise with back-to-back 23-goal seasons, and most fans love his style of play. It’s tough to find 20-goal scorers. And Bunting’s done it his first two seasons.
However, on the other side of the scale sit his playoff controversies that strained his relationships with officials. Does that mean he’s become a liability? Will the team risk a long-term contract on his ability to stay out of the penalty box?
Question Two: Will Bunting Explore Free Agency?
Considering his success and recent events, Bunting might want to test the free agency market. He might want time to assess his value and consider other offers. Loyalty to Toronto should play a role, but if another team offers a better long-term deal, could that complicate matters?
Question Three: How Do the Maple Leafs Really Feel About Bunting?
Until a contract is signed, we just don’t know how the Maple Leafs feel about Bunting’s value. Should there be a new general manager, will that change the Maple Leafs’ desire to re-sign Bunting? Again, if there seem to be chinks in Bunting’s armour, then what?
If so, a long-term commitment might be seen as a gamble, despite his solid contributions. How carefully will the organization evaluate the situation?
Related: Maybe It Wasn’t the Maple Leafs Choice About Dubas After All
Question Four: How Long of a Term Would/Could the Maple Leafs Want To/Believe They Could Offer?
What is the future outlook for Bunting? There were rumours of an eight-year extension for him early in the season, but has the Maple Leafs’ situation changed? Even if Bunting is valued, for how many seasons on a contract? If the team can’t or won’t offer a longer-term commitment and another team does, might Bunting go for the longer term?
Would he sign with the team he wants to play with (we assume Toronto) for a shorter term, or head to another team that would give him more years of them on his contract?
The Bottom Line
Bunting’s future with the Maple Leafs remains uncertain until a contract is in place. He’s shown potential and loyalty, but he’s also had some recent run-ins with NHL officials. Might these raise doubts?
Will Bunting explore other opportunities? Will the Maple Leafs carefully assess the situation before committing to a long-term deal?
There are still a lot of questions about Bunting. As the offseason progresses, clarity on this intriguing situation will emerge. I for one hope Bunting comes back; but, do the Maple Leafs share my perspective?
Related: Would Auston Matthews Really Leave the Maple Leafs?
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May 19, 2023 at 3:55 am
SIX is there a Hyman sized Bunting availabke
May 19, 2023 at 5:17 am
Am I wrong in thinking Bunting himself said he was planning on exploring free agency?
May 19, 2023 at 8:12 am
The more I digest the showing against the Panthers, the history before that and the way management backed and paid Maple Leafs players – and the more I consider the tone of some the exit interviews – the stronger I feel about treating players as commodities. So in terms of Bunting, if he wants to try to make more than he’s really worth by testing the market, let him go. Don’t over pay. Don’t fall in love with your players. Doing either is a cardinal sin if a team wants to succeed.
May 19, 2023 at 8:45 am
Bart Simpson could put up 23 goals a season playing with Matthews and Marner. Sure I’m exaggerating but the fact remains that Bunting was not a big contributor when he played lower in the line up. Couple this with the fact that a 7th year pro managed to earn, then suffer the ire of the entire NHL officiating staff and one thing becomes crystal clear: Michael Bunting was a great value signing when he was cheap but anything more than a marginal pay bump should not be considered.
He will get substantially more elsewhere, so we must part ways with a loose cannon type of player, who only seems to produce when playing with superstars.
May 19, 2023 at 9:50 am
May 19, 2023 at 9:49 am
Firstly, I doubt Bunting gets 23 goals a season without playing with top players like the Leafs top 4. This past year, he did exhibit times of going overboard and then there was the playoffs trouble. While his style is something the Leafs desperately need, they really should have someone better who can do that stuff for the top line. I don’t see Bunting as a top line guy so it’s more like he’s a fill in until they can have the cap available to get a real guy. At that point, he’s at most a second liner and possibly even 3rd liner. At that point, it needs to be considered how much he can contribute in the bottom 6.
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