Yesterday, according to TSN’s Chris Johnston, the Maple Leafs will not be re-signing three of their pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Those three include Alex Kerfoot, Justin Holl, and Michael Bunting.
These depth players now hit the open market and seek new contracts. I’m sure each one of them will find a place to land. But that’s not my point here. I’m specifically thinking about Bunting. I think he at least deserves a conversation with the team management – Brad Treliving.
Did Treliving Contact Bunting’s Agent?
Perhaps it’s already taken place and was a quick one-and-done. Perhaps the sides were so far apart that they decided to part ways amicably. But, I have at least one piece of evidence that this is not what happened.
Just under a week ago, the Bunting camp reported that Treliving had NOT contacted them about any contract talks. Again, they might have done so yesterday or the day before. I don’t know, but the last piece of evidence I have is that they had no contact.
Bunting Deserved At Least a Conversation
Why this matters to me is that, when Bunting ended his contract with the Arizona Coyotes he chose to come to the Maple Leafs. According to reports, he left more money on the table to do so. While he was with the team, he performed well and on a cheap contract.
In my mind, his contract two seasons ago at least gives him a right to a conversation with Treliving about what it would take to keep him with the Maple Leafs. If that conversation has not happened, why not? Shouldn’t a GM even be curious about Bunting’s ask?
Is Bunting a Part of Treliving’s Re-Shaping the Team?
Or, as reported, is Treliving taking the opportunity to shape the team according to his vision? That’s his right, of course; it’s in his job description. But if there was not even a conversation, what does that say?
It might say that Bunting is not the kind of player he wants on the team. If that’s the case – Ok. But if it’s money, that’s another kettle of fish.
Four Reasons Why Treliving Should Have Spoken with Bunting’s Camp
I have four thoughts about why Treliving should have at least spoken to Bunting’s camp.
First, Bunting has been a valuable asset for the Maple Leafs over the past two seasons. He’s scored 46 goals while earning a paltry salary. That strong performance might have increased his market value substantially; however, he deserves recognition for his contributions to the team. Even to say thank you, but we can’t afford you.
Second, the job of a GM is to communicate. And, if Treliving did not do so, why not? One might expect a new general manager to reach out to Bunting as a sign of respect and acknowledgment. Call me un-business-like, but I think it’s important to maintain open lines of communication with players who have shown loyalty and dedication to the team.
Third, while the team has salary cap constraints, that shouldn’t prevent them from at least initiating a conversation with Bunting. Exploring the possibility of a team-friendly contract could allow the team to retain a valuable player without severely impacting the team’s ability to make other roster moves or sign key players.
Fourth, without any conversation about contract negotiations could the Maple Leafs miss an opportunity to work out a mutually beneficial agreement? Was it possible to find a middle ground that satisfied both parties?
The Bottom Line
Perhaps all this is smoke in the wind because Treliving actually did speak with Bunting’s camp and we just don’t know. If so, good.
However, if he didn’t, why? It would seem unfair not to at least speak with Bunting about a potential contract extension. Given his contributions, loyalty, and the fact that he already has history of playing for his hometown team on a team-friendly contract, engaging in direct conversations would demonstrate respect, acknowledgement of his worth, and – who knows – might potentially find a solution that benefits both Bunting and the Maple Leafs.
I hope I hear later that I was wrong.