The Maple Leafs announced Wednesday that they had agreed to a 2-year, $1.9M deal with 25-year-old winger Michael Bunting, for an annual cap hit of $950k
Michael Bunting’s deal in TOR is two years, with an AAV of $950K.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 28, 2021
Bunting has been rumoured to the Leafs all summer, both due to his Scarborough roots and his time playing under Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas with the Soo Greyhounds. With this latest Soo signing, Dubas has filled out his Greyhound loyalty card and is now eligible for one free Greyhound during his next visit to free agency.
The late-blooming Bunting, who has 26 NHL games experience spread across the last two seasons, put up 10 goals and 3 assists in 21 games last season with the Arizona Coyotes, shooting a blistering 26.3%. While it is extremely unlikely he will be able to keep up that shooting rate, Bunting should benefit from playing in the Leafs’ more up-tempo offensive system, especially if he finds himself with Auston Matthews or John Tavares as his centre. The versatile Bunting, who can play either wing, is the type of plug-and-play winger who brings many different elements to a line, making him an ideal addition for a team that may employ a revolving door of wingers early next season to determine who fits in the top 6.
Stylistically, Bunting is quoted as saying he models his game after Bruins winger Brad Marchand. Bunting described himself as “…a feisty kind of guy that’s not afraid to get into the corners and do the dirty work but be able to contribute offensively. That’s what I love to do – I love to kind of get under other players’ skins but I also love putting up big points for the team.”
From an advanced stats perspective, Bunting saw very favourable deployment last season, with just 20.1% of his faceoffs coming in the defensive zone. Bunting put up positive Corsi Share (55.4 CF%), Goal Share (52.9 GF%) and Expected Goal Share (50.1 xGF%) numbers in those 21 games, playing mostly with Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland. (All stats from Evolving-Hockey.com).At this price, Bunting is a low-risk add to a team that needs winger depth on its left side to push players like Ilya Mikheyev down the lineup. Where he will ultimately land in the lineup depends on who else the Leafs add before the season starts, but Bunting brings a tenacious element they will surely miss with the departure of Zach Hyman.
You can read more on Bunting here: