In the end, there seemed to be a feeling that Michael Bunting wasn’t desired in Toronto. However, the former Maple Leafs player played solid hockey for his team during his two-season stint there. As I look toward this season, I have a feeling that (a) he’ll be missed in Toronto and (b) that he will do well with his new Carolina Hurricanes team.
Bunting Found a Nice Home in Carolina: He Landed Well
During free agency, Bunting found a new home with the Hurricanes. In fact, there he signed a significant three-year, $13.5 million deal. This contract comes with an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $4.5 million. That figure was far outside of the Maple Leafs’ comfort zone for his perceived value.
Last season with Toronto, the 27-year-old Bunting showed his abilities by scoring 23 goals and adding 26 assists (for 49 points) in 82 games. However, his on-ice presence wasn’t just limited to scoring. He also brought a physical presence with 85 hits and 103 penalty minutes. These attributes will enhance Carolina’s lineup during the upcoming 2023-24 season.
Bunting’s solid play during his time with the Maple Leafs became a stepping stone to his lucrative contract with the Hurricanes. His move from a “greasy,” hard worker to his multi-million-dollar contract is a testament to his growth as a player.
Bunting Is a Player with Hidden Depth
For me, it was fun to watch Bunting’s development. He was learning how to play hockey in a way that fitted into the Maple Leafs’ team needs. I thought he was a smarter player than he was given credit for. In that, his hockey IQ was underappreciated.
Bunting often seemed to be running around on the ice, engaged in energetic play. However, he also put himself exactly in the right spot to convert a rebound or steal a pass or move the play toward the opponent’s goalie. He exuded on-ice energy, but it was energy with a purpose. He didn’t need to be told how to adapt his play to the team’s needs. And he became a key part of his team’s overall personality.
Perhaps he sometimes went a bit overboard. However, for me, it was him just learning and defining the limits of his role with the team. Throughout all this, his development was obvious. He learned from his experiences. I’m hoping that there’s a young rising star from the Marlies to step up to fill his void and contribute to the team’s identity.
Look for Bunting to Fit Well in Carolina
Bunting’s move to Carolina makes sense. His playing style should benefit the Hurricanes. He thrives off the forecheck, which works well with Carolina’s team play that emphasizes the forecheck over the rush. Bunting’s play fits the Hurricanes’ strategy and should help both him and his new team.
With Carolina, Bunting will likely play with the top-four wingers with players like Andrei Svechnikov, Seth Jarvis, and Martin Necas. His signing could push Teuvo Teravainen to a bottom-six role.
If Bunting is paired with Sebastian Aho, look for him to push higher than his past two season’s total of 23 goals (each season) and around 50+ points. That said, he might also be placed on a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Training camp will help figure that out.
Bunting Will Be Missed in Toronto
I’ll be keeping an eye on Bunting’s time in Carolina, and I’m interested to see how he does. As a fan, I’ll miss seeing Bunting going up and down the ice in his hometown blue and white jersey. I’m hoping he lands well in Carolina.