Michael Bunting entered NHL Free Agency as one of the more polarizing players in the open market. On one hand, he did what many athletes in his position aim to do: prove himself on a short-term deal. Bunting scored 46 goals and 112 points for the Toronto Maple Leafs after signing a two-year contract in 2021.

On the other hand, Bunting did himself no favors during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He earned a three-game suspension for delivering a hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak. And the Maple Leafs seemed to play better without him in the lineup.

In fact, Bunting served as a healthy scratch once in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite his obvious ability to contribute offensively, the Maple Leafs still kept him off the ice, potentially in part because of his antics.

In the end, Bunting left the Maple Leafs in NHL Free Agency. He signed a three-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, who were one series victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Is Bunting a good fit for the Hurricanes? How does Carolina make out in this deal? Let's take a look at the three-year contract signed by Michael Bunting and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Michael Bunting history

Bunting entered the NHL as a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut in the league as a 23-year-old during the 2018-19 season, playing five games. He didn't play in the NHL the following year but skated in 21 games in 2020-21 where he scored 10 goals and 13 points.

The promise he showed earned him a two-year, $1.9 million contract with the Maple Leafs. His first year in Toronto saw Bunting score 23 goals and 60 points in 79 games. This past season, he once again scored 23 goals, but he had just 49 points in 82 games.

Michael Bunting signs with Hurricanes

As I mentioned earlier, Bunting did what a lot of athletes do in his position. He took a cheap, short-term contract and won the bet he took on himself. The 27-year-old proved he can produce at a high level in the NHL.

Whether he can continue to produce at a high level without players such as Auston Matthews around him remains to be seen. Bunting will have incredible players such as Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov around him, however. He should gel well with those guys, and they should create a lot of scoring chances.

The 27-year-old wants to win a Stanley Cup at some point in his career. Heading to a team that has made two Eastern Conference Finals appearances in the last five seasons should increase his chances of winning that elusive Cup.

Hurricanes sign Michael Bunting

For the Hurricanes, this is a fine signing. This contract takes Bunting to his age 30 season, so he shouldn't have a crazy decline. And the $4.5 million price tag is a bit under market value, as well.

The Hurricanes may also have reason to rest easy in terms of the point production concerns. Many had concerns over whether Zach Hyman could maintain his level of play with the Edmonton Oilers. So far, he has maintained that level of play and then some.

It goes without saying that the Oilers offer a better-supporting cast than the Hurricanes. After all, Edmonton has the two best players in the NHL on their roster. But Carolina still offers a fantastic supporting cast around Bunting.

There's no reason to expect a major drop in point production. If head coach Rod Brind'Amour can reel in the undesired antics we saw in the playoffs, this is a home run signing for the Hurricanes.

Grades and final thoughts

Michael Bunting and the Carolina Hurricanes earn high marks for this contract. Bunting proved himself in Toronto and parlayed that into a three-year pact with a healthy pay raise. The Hurricanes add Bunting to an impressive forward core looking for a bit more of a scoring punch. This has all the makings of a win-win on paper.

Michael Bunting grade: A+

Carolina Hurricanes grade: A+