Michael Bunting has been a revelation for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Unfortunately though, he seems set to price himself out of town eventually.
Given his current deal pays him (per CapFriendly) just $950,000 this season and next season, you’d have to imagine he’ll be asking for a considerable raise when he hits unrestricted free agency.
Right now, his form puts him in the running for the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, which itself is a bit of an anomaly given he’s a 26 year-old competing with 20 year-olds for this honour.
As noted by Sportsnet, he wouldn’t be an undeserving candidate:
"Question: Which NHL rookie has more goals than Michael Bunting?Answer: Nobody. (5 Maple Leafs Takeaways: Michael Bunting builds sneaky Calder case)"
Just how sweet is his current deal for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Simple facts are that Michael Bunting currently has the 10th sweetest deal against the salary cap in the entire league. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the beneficiaries of that, paying just $29,687 per point.
As a comparative, the best non-ELC contract in the league on this measure is Anthony DeAngelo’s deal in Carolina, paying him $26,315 per point.
Finding a comparable deal is the challenging factor here. Prior to this season, his season-high games in an NHL season was 21. Nearly two-thirds of his NHL experience is for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year.
As such, he will push to be measured against his 15 goals and 32 points, rather than his past NHL time in Arizona.
Who can the Toronto Maple Leafs use as a comparable?
Looking at players with similar points tallies this season, there’s one name that should provide the perfect comparison. That name being Evan Rodrigues of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
His 33 point season thus far, as well as having plenty of prior NHL experience, along with the fact he’s on a one-year sweetheart deal and looking for a raise this summer has him tailor-made for the Toronto Maple Leafs to put a number on Bunting.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now picks Rodrigues’ number as $9 million over 3 years. Frankly, that might be a reasonable price to pay for Bunting, so long as he doesn’t go winning the Calder and leveraging it to ask for more cash.
The irony in this comparable, of course, is that Evan Rodrigues was for a short time a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organisation, coming across in the Kasperi Kapanen trade.
For the time being, we should enjoy the fruits of having Michael Bunting in our line-up and gelling so well with our superstar forwards.
Long-term, he might prove a pricey option to keep and end up heading out of town, despite likely wanting to remain. It happened with Zach Hyman, there’s no doubting it could happen to the kid from Scarborough too.