Maple Leafs didn’t offer new contract, Michael Bunting tells podcaster

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It won’t come as a shock to Leafs Nation but Michael Bunting was ultimately never going to be returning to the Maple Leafs on a new contract.

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And he knew it.

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This off-season, the forward signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes worth $13.5 million.

Bunting, who socred 23 goals in each of the past two seasons with Toronto, clarified contract talks during a chat on Sportsnet’s The JD Bunkis Podcast, saying the silence spoke volumes.

“It was just quick talks, nothing extensive,” Bunting told Bunkis about any talks 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 off-season came along and whatnot, and didn’t really hear much, you kind of just figured that it wasn’t going to work out.”

The 27-year-old Toronto-born Bunting skated for former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and weighed in on his former boss’s outster. Dubas was canned shortly after the season ended and was replaced by Brad Treliving.

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Dubas quickly resurfaced with the Pittsburgh Penguins as president and will serve as that team’s GM for at least the upcoming season.


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“I’m not really sure what transpired,” Bunting said of Toronto’s 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.”

There were no hard feelings surrounding his departure from Leafland, Bunting said.

“That’s the business and you understand just how it works,” he 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.”

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Bunting recorded 46 goals and 66 assists in 161 games for Toronto over the last two seasons, enjoying some chemistry on the team’s top line 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 said.

Bunting was suspended in this year’s playoffs, missing 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.”

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