Since becoming the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brad Treliving has been busy. However, it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t yet reached out to speak with pending free agent Michael Bunting about re-signing. Today in an article by David Alter, Bunting was quoted as saying the the new Maple Leafs’ GM hasn’t held any discussions with him about a contract extension.

Related: Why Matthews’ Loyalty Could Change the Maple Leafs’ World

What Might the Lack of Conversation Mean?

This lack of communication between the Maple Leafs and Bunting is noteworthy. Considering the recent change in management with Kyle Dubas being dismissed as the general manager, one might think a new GM would want to reach out at least to say hello and/or I have some things to do first but I haven’t forgotten you’re there and I care. Maybe that just doesn’t happen in hockey.

Obviously, some of the silence can be expected. After all, a huge and surprising transition took place. However, I might have expected more conversation.

For me, Bunting would not seem to be a maybe. Given what he produced for his neglible salary, one would think he would be owed a conversation – sooner rather than later.

Sure, Treliving Has Other Priorities, But …

Obviously, Treliving has focused his work on other priorities – namely, Auston Matthews is up for a contract extension and there are decisions to make about the team’s next head coach. Will current coach Sheldon Keefe stay or go?

Although Treliving has engaged in talks with other free agents, the lack of discussion with Bunting’s camp is worth noting, despite Treliving being in the role for a relatively short time. Does it make you think the team might not rank Bunting high on its priorities?

Reasons Why the Maple Leafs Might Not Re-sign Michael Bunting

In the remainder of this post, I’ll share what I think might be five reasons the Maple Leafs are not interested in bringing Bunting back. Although, for the life of me, I can’t imagine the reason for the lack of contact.

Reason #1: Salary Cap Constraints

The Maple Leafs are currently tight against the salary cap. There’s limited room to make significant signings. Bunting’s strong performance over the past two seasons has likely increased his market value, and he might be seeking a higher salary in free agency. If Bunting seeks a higher salary, it could restrict the team’s ability to make other roster moves or sign key players.

But, do at least ask.

Related: Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Shane Doan Shares His Thoughts

Reason #2: Contract Negotiations

Bunting’s impressive performance has put him in a strong negotiating position. If the Maple Leafs are not willing or able to meet his increased financial demands, it could create challenges in contract negotiations.

Bunting could get squeezed by the Maple Leafs who try to take advantage of his over team-friendliness. If he does decide to stay with the team at a considerably lower cap hit, could it strain the relationship between himself and the organization down the road?

But have that discussion directly and face-to-face.

Reason #3: Roster Flexibility

Signing Bunting to a long-term contract with a significant cap hit could limit the team’s flexibility in terms of future signings and trades. Effective salary cap management is crucial for building a competitive roster, and committing a significant portion of the cap to one player may hinder the team’s ability to make necessary roster adjustments in the future.

But, at least ask.

Reason #4: Performance on the First Line and the Postseason

Although Bunting had a strong rookie season and matched his goal output in his second year, he struggled to maintain his place on the first line alongside Auston Matthews. In the playoffs, a three-game suspension limited his impact during the first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team might have concerns about his ability to consistently perform at a high level on the top line.

Still, as I noted, he produced 46 goals in two seasons for less than $1 million per season. That deserves a conversation.

Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

Reason #5: There Might Be Other Options in Free Agency

The Maple Leafs might explore other options in free agency to address their roster needs. The team has limited cap space. Could they could prioritize signing players in positions of greater need or pursuing alternative free agents who offer more favorable contract terms?

Again, this is grist for the mill of a direct conversation. I would encourage it.

The Bottom Line

Bunting has been a valuable asset for the Maple Leafs over the past two seasons. However, several factors suggest the team might not be interested in re-signing him. These include salary cap constraints, difficult contract negotiations, the need for maximum roster flexibility, concerns about his performance on the first line, and the possibility that there might be other options in free agency.

All these might contribute to the uncertainty surrounding Bunting’s future with the team. Still, don’t you think one would ask him what’s up?

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Bunting, Doan, Treliving & Matthews

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