3 Bargain Targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Free Agency

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes
Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

Michael Bunting

Every year there is that one player that no one knows heading into free agency that gets a ton of attention for being a cost-effective impact player. This year, it is Michael Bunting.

He didn’t have the most glorious pathway to the NHL. He had to work his way up through the ranks. That was after he dominated the Ontario Hockey League.

After getting drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Coyotes, Bunting spent three seasons between the AHL and ECHL before playing in his first NHL game, and five and a half years until he finally carved out a stable role in the NHL.

He proved the American Hockey League is not a large enough challenge in his last two and a half years with the Tucson Roadrunners. In that time, he averaged 0.87 points per game over 126 games.

His first stint in the NHL with the Coyotes didn’t pan out, notching only one point in five games back in ’18-’19. Another opportunity didn’t come up until this past season when he accumulated 13 points in 21 games.

On many teams, having 13 points in 21 games is a solid output. On the Arizona Coyotes, that is quite impressive. That’s saying a lot.  He was able to produce despite the lack of talent on the team. Although he only played few games, the 25-year-old had one of the more productive seasons on the team. He averaged 0.62 points per game, which tied for fifth on the team.

What I find interesting is 10 of Bunting’s 13 points were goals. Meanwhile, he eclipsed 20+ goals in the AHL only once. That may suggest a lucky year for the forward and risk for any team willing to put their trust in him. That’s especially so when you consider his 26.3 percent shooting percentage.

Despite that, you can see the potential in Michael Bunting. While I wouldn’t trust him to score every second game like he did this past season, being a solid third-liner is not out of the question.

NHL stats courtesy of NHL.com

Other stats courtesy of elite prospects

I’m looking at it like this. The safe player would be Hinostroza, and the risky player would be Bunting. It’s a higher risk but a higher reward. Gally would be the most expensive, but guarantees to be a complementary top-six player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Sometimes, taking the safe route works out best. Other times, you need to put your chips in and hope for the best. Vote in the poll and let me know what you think!