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Michael Bunting had no in-season contract discussions with Toronto Maple Leafs
By Steven Ellis9 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a big decision to make with their biggest pending unrestricted free agent.
During his postseason press conference on Monday, forward Michael Bunting told the media that he didn’t have any discussions during the season on a new NHL contract and that he was solely focused on the season.
“Just playing hockey, that’s all I was really focused on,” Bunting said. “I wanted to help this team win and enjoy the moment. So I wasn’t really worried about all the next stuff.”
Bunting finished the final year of a deal that paid him $950,000, which made him one of the best value players in the league over the past two years. The Leafs snagged Bunting out of Arizona ahead of the 2021-22 season, with Bunting having split the previous year between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Tuscon. Bunting had 63 points in his first full NHL season last year, but fell to 49 points during the regular season this year. Bunting was given a three-game suspension for his hit on Erik Cernak in the opening round, and ended up recording just one goal and two points in seven playoff games.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m a very emotional guy, team-first guy,” Bunting said. “I felt like I went out there every single night, worked hard and showed my passion and just tried to help this team win at any time. I had my teammates back when I needed to and it just felt like I left everything on the ice any time I stepped on it.”
Bunting’s lowered production won’t help his contract talks, but he’s not focused on that right now.
“I haven’t even thought about my future at all,” Bunting said. “It’s been 72 hours. I’m more ocused on enjoying time with my teammates.”
Bunting’s love for Toronto is well known. He grew up a Leafs fan, having grown up in nearby Scarborough. But with the Leafs potentially in a tough cap situation the next two years, especially with Auston Matthews and William Nylander set to become UFAs in 2024, getting a reasonable deal signed with Bunting could be tough.
So while Bunting doesn’t know where it’s next, there’s still a tight connection between the player and the team. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli listed Bunting as the top UFA this summer, so it’ll be interesting to see what the two sides decide.
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