michael bunting toronto maple leafs

Michael Bunting says Toronto Maple Leafs never offered him a contract

Michael Bunting appeared to have seen the writing on the way that 2022-23 going to be his last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Having spent the last two seasons with his hometown squad, the 27-year-old Toronto-born forward spoke to Sportsnet's JD Bunkis Podcast about the factors that led to his three-year, $13.5 million contract this summer with the Carolina Hurricanes.

"It was just quick talks, nothing extensive," Bunting told Bunkis about any discussions with the team's front office about returning to the Leafs. "It wasn't a lot of contract talk that went on during the season. And then kind of once the offseason came along and whatnot, and didn't really hear much, you kind of just figured that it wasn't going to work out."

Bunting spent his two years in Toronto under former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who was let go in the weeks following the season before the team hired Brad Treliving as his replacement.

"I'm not really sure what transpired," Bunting said of the team's front office changes. "You can't really worry about that, you just kind of keep it going. And like I said, I'm just looking forward to the future and my next chapter here with Carolina."

So were there any hard feelings that it seemed like he wasn't part of Toronto’s plans?

"That's the business and you understand just how it works," Bunting said. "We're playing in a cap era. And the cap obviously comes in situations with every single team, and they try their best to make everything work and every team tries to make make the best team that they can with the cap situation that they're in. So that being said, I totally understand the business side of it. And once free agency opened and Carolina came calling, I didn’t hesitate.”

Bunting had 46 goals and 66 assists in 161 games for the Leafs over the course of the last two seasons, finding instant chemistry on the team's top line while typically playing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

"I built chemistry with Auston and Mitch in that first year, and I kind of just ran with it and each game more confidence would build and build and you kind of feel like you belong in the NHL, and you feel like you can keep up with everybody."

Bunting also touched on his suspension in this year's playoffs, where he missed three games for a hit on Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak.

"That's just how hockey is, things happen," he said. "It's so fast, we’re so emotional out there. Obviously, I can get emotional, even the refs get emotional. The Toronto media made that a little bit of a story, but I’m not really like that off the ice. I come in with a laugh every day and a smile. I really wasn’t focused on that at all. I do know I get emotional, and I get loud out there and, and [the referees] deal with it the best they can."

Lead photo by

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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