RALEIGH — The Hurricanes were looking to add some goal-scoring this offseason. They’ve also longed to add an agitator to their lineup.
Enter Michael Bunting.
Carolina signed the 6-foot, 192-pound left wing to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million on Saturday’s first day of free agency.
“I want to bring offense every single night and help the team win and that side of it,” Bunting, who scored 23 goals in each of the last two seasons with Toronto, said on Monday, “but I feel like I can bring a lot of energy on that side of just kind of being in the other team’s face, kind of getting in the way, getting them distracted.”
The Scarborough, Ontario, native was a late bloomer, drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Coyotes, and spent more than five seasons in the minors before earning a full-time spot with the Maple Leafs in 2021-22 when he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy.
Burting, who will turn 28 on Sept. 17, drew 88 penalties over the past two years, trailing only Connor McDavid (95) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (92) among all NHL players.
He says he needs to continue playing with the same determination that helped him finally earn a full-time spot in the NHL.
“It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I can’t think that the work’s done now,” he said. “I gotta keep pushing on the gas and keep proving that I belong because the second I take things for granted, I could lose it.”
Bunting has experience playing with top-end players, having frequently flanked Auston Matthews and sometimes playing with both him and Mitch Marner. Bunting will likely fill a similar role in Carolina. As it stands now, Bunting will probably be slotted alongside centers Sebastian Aho or Jesperi Kotkaniemi with either Seth Jarvis or Martin Necas on his opposite wing.
“I think I can bring that energy every single night, no matter what line I’m on,” Bunting said. “I think I can bring that energy, bring my skill set and be able to move the puck and get to the hard areas.
“That’s where I excel the most, in front of the net and in the corners and distributing the puck but also being able to put it in as well.”