The 5 Best Toronto Maple Leafs Free Agent Signings in the Auston Matthews Era

Who were the Leafs most significant free agent signings that paid off in the past decade?
Toronto Maple Leafs v Edmonton Oilers
Toronto Maple Leafs v Edmonton Oilers / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages
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Michael Bunting

When the Leafs chose not to retain Zach Hyman during the 2021 off-season, they pivoted to another player in free agency that they hoped could make up for some of the lost traits and abilities that Hyman brought.

That player was none other than Michael Bunting. Having shown some promise with the Arizona Coyotes the previous season with 10 goals in just 21 games played, the Maple Leafs envisioned that he could bring some of that scoring touch with him to his new squad.

Despite starting the season lower in the lineup, he eventually landed on the top line with Matthews and Marner.

With instant chemistry formed with the dynamic duo, Bunting never relinquished his spot for the rest of the year. As a result, Bunting put together a strong rookie season in 2021-22 with 23 goals and 40 assists for 63 points in 79 games and ended up being a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

Bunting put those points up without much power-play time and ended up having one of the best 5v5 seasons in the last 20 years.

He followed it up with a a great second season, potting 23 goals again but this time with only 49 points, again with great underlying numbers and few power-play minutes. (All stats from hockey-reference.com)

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However, Bunting’s success eventually priced him out of town. Nevertheless, having costed just $1.9 million over his two seasons with Toronto, the Leafs certainly deserve full marks for the recruit, even if Zach Hyman's 70 combined goals in the 2024 playoffs and regular season obscures how well they did with Bunting.