The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed left winger Michael Bunting to a two-year deal, $1.9 million contract. The deal carries an AAV of $950,000, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
While Bunting is only 25-years-old, he qualifies as being an unrestricted free agent. According to CapFriendly, he falls under the Group 6 category as he didn’t meet the requirements to play in the specific amount of games at his age. He would play extremely well in the 21 games for the Coyotes, finishing the season with 10 goals and 13 points.
Drafted 117th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes, Bunting has put up very impressive numbers in the American League with the Springfield Falcons and Tucson Roadrunners. In 323 games played, he recorded 85 goals and tallied 205 points with a 0.63 points per game.
There’s also a bit of familiarity as Bunting played for Sheldon Keefe when he was head coach of the Soo Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League. General manager Kyle Dubas served in the same role from 2011-12 to 2013-14, before joining the Maple Leafs.
Fit With the Maple Leafs
Bunting wasn’t one of the biggest names on the free agent market, but the Maple Leafs were the front runner to sign him and at very cheap price at that. He does have good upside and could potentially be a middle-six option, but he could also possibly see more time as a third-line player.
With Zach Hyman signing with the Edmonton Oilers, there’s the potential and hope that Bunting can replicate the offensive presence that Hyman had for the Maple Leafs. He has good size and speed and has the ability to have a similar style to that of Blake Coleman. If there ever comes a time, he could possibly see minutes on the second line as well. With a minimum of 200 minutes played at five-on-five, he was first on the Coyotes in Corsi For percentage (56.07%) and seventh in expected goals for percentage with 51.16%.
Expectations should be tempered with him on the Maple Leafs as the sample size on him is small, but Bunting has the potential to provide a great secondary scoring presence as he has a really great shot. He’ll fit in nicely with a Maple Leafs team that prides itself on being a quick offensive team with an emphasis on puck possession.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.