NHL free agency 2023: Michael Bunting signs 3-year, $13.5 million deal with Hurricanes

Michael Bunting is heading to Carolina to help elevate the offence of the Metropolitan Division winners.

After signing one of the top free agents on the board by bringing in Dmitry Orlov, the Carolina Hurricanes are at it again.

The Hurricanes have bolstered their forward group with addition of Michael Bunting on a three-year, $13.5 million contract. Bunting is coming of a 23-goal, 49 point season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's the second consecutive year that he's tallied 23 goals.

Michael Bunting scored 23 goals for the Leafs in 2022-23. (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Michael Bunting scored 23 goals for the Leafs in 2022-23. (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Bunting was one of the most productive forwards on the free-agent market with 112 points to his name over the last two seasons. He's also one of the younger options, as he won't turn 28 until September.

That made him appealing for a Hurricanes team needing an offensive boost. Last season, Carolina allowed the second-fewest goals in the NHL (2.56 per game), but ranked 15th in goals per game (3.20).

Bunting should be able to help with that, but he comes with some notable red flags. Because he has spent the majority of his career stapled to the wing of Auston Matthews in Toronto, it's possible that some of his numbers are inflated due to opportunities created by guys like Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander.

He also has a reckless streak as demonstrated by a hit in the first game of the 2022-23 playoffs that earned him a three-game suspension.

One of the ways Bunting has created extra value in recent years is by drawing penalties, and his reputation for embellishment may be catching up with him. If that prevents him from continuing to create power play opportunities for his team, his worth could diminish slightly over time.

For all the worries around Bunting, the Hurricanes will be pleased to add a capable finisher to a lineup that's made its reputation on defensive responsibility rather than offensive skill. It will be interesting to see what the winger is capable of in a context outside of Toronto, where he was given an incredible chance to produce.

This deal indicates that Carolina is willing to bet that there's more to Bunting's success than being in the right place at the right time. Following the deal, the Hurricanes have $2.823 million in cap space remaining.