Leafs’ Michael Bunting to have Player Safety hearing for illegal check to head, interference
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Mike Gould1 month ago
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Wednesday related to a high hit he laid on Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak during the second period of Tuesday’s playoff game at Scotiabank Arena.
Bunting was assessed a match penalty after launching his shoulder into Cernak’s face away from the puck in the Lightning zone. The incident occurred at the 15:40 mark of the second period of the Maple Leafs’ 7–3 loss to the Lightning.
Brayden Point and Corey Perry scored during Bunting’s penalty time to give the Lightning a 6–2 lead over the Maple Leafs heading into the second intermission of Game 1. Calle Jarnkrok and Ross Colton subsequently traded goals in the third period as the Lightning held on to take a 1–0 series lead.
Bunting has never previously been suspended in his 187-game National Hockey League career, although he was once fined $2,000 for embellishment during the 2021–22 season.
Bunting, 27, logged 8:32 of ice time and did not record a point before being ejected from Game 1. He collected 23 goals and 49 points in 82 games with the Maple Leafs during the 2022–23 regular season.
The Arizona Coyotes originally selected Bunting in the fourth round (No. 117 overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft. The pesky winger made his NHL debut with the Coyotes in 2018–19, appearing in 26 total games with the club over parts of two seasons before signing a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
Bunting is set to become a UFA once again this July, and he’ll likely command a significant raise over his current $950,000 NHL cap hit. The Scarborough, Ont. product has recorded 57 goals and 126 points in 187 career games with the Coyotes and Maple Leafs; he’s added one goal and three points in seven playoff contests.
The Maple Leafs and Lightning will return to action for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto at 7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday evening.
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