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.
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?
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?
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