On the opening day of free agency on July 1, the Carolina Hurricanes agreed to a two-year deal with former Capitals and Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov. This move was touted by many hockey pundits as the best signing of the offseason, as Orlov was widely considered the best available free agent in the cycle.
But, the signing of the 32-year old defenseman wasn’t the only important move Don Waddell and the Carolina front office made that day.
Former Toronto Maple Leaf Michael Bunting also made the decision to come to the Metropolitan Division on the first day of free agency, inking a three-year deal with the Hurricanes.
As a 23-goal scorer during the 2022-2023 season, Bunting provides some much needed offensive power in Raleigh, especially with the unknown surrounding Andrei Svechnikov as he returns from ACL surgery.
He has recorded 23 goals in back-to-back campaigns and has provided a positive impact on the ice, tallying a +48 point differential over the last 161 regular season contests.
With the expectations both for Carolina as a team and Bunting as a big piece for the future, there was certainly excitement surrounding his arrival.
Bunting wasted no time in making his presence felt, as the 28-year old amassed a two-point performance in his Hurricanes debut, scoring an empty net goal and securing an assist in the 4-1 win.
“It felt good. The first period [was to] kind of get the rust off and get the summer behind you,” said Bunting after Wednesday’s debut. “Once the second and third period got going, I felt better and better and more confident.”
On Friday, in what served as his second contest with Carolina, Bunting illustrated both his skills and reputation through two full seasons in the NHL.
For the second straight contest, he recorded a point, as he sent home a rebound off a Tony DeAngelo shot attempt in the third period.
Whether it is by assisting a teammate or finding the back of the net with his own stick, the former Arizona Coyote has a knack for contributing when it matters most.
Bunting, outside of serving as a quality scoring left wing, has a liking for drawing penalties, as well as committing them.
He was sent to the penalty box on three separate occasions on Friday, but also drew two infractions on Florida in the 4-2 defeat.
Fitting into the Rod Brind’Amour style of play, that should come as no surprise to Hurricanes fans. Bunting plays with an aggressiveness and persistence that can surely aid the Carolina lineup.
Taking risks is part of his game and Caniacs were quickly introduced to his style of play.
While he was close to paying rent in Sunrise for time spent in the box, he also assisted on Carolina’s power play, not only scoring a goal on the man advantage, but drawing the hooking penalty that eventually led to his second score of the preseason.
Bunting recorded 6:23 of ice time on the man advantage. This comes after he 4:09 spent on the power play on Wednesday, leading all Hurricanes’ skaters.
When it comes to Michael Bunting, making sure he stays on the ice and not in the penalty box could be concern, but his talent and offensive ability certainly overtake the negative.
Through two games, he has tallied three points (2 goals, 1 assist), while adding in six shot attempts.
Sure, his time in the box is equal to his number of shot attempts so far as a Hurricane, but his edginess and ability to find the back of the net will pay dividends as Carolina enters the season with Stanley Cup expectations.
Even if it’s just the preseason, the Michael Bunting experience is on full display.