Bunting, Campbell & Prospect Moving

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the eclectic – a little bit from here, a little bit from there – news emerging from and around the team. 

Item One: Considering Bunting’s Next Contract 

In the discussion section of yesterday’s post about Jack Campbell’s thinking about his new contract, reader “Nor” threw out a note that I had not considered. It was to point at Michael Bunting’s upcoming UFA status at the end of next season. “Nor” noted that Bunting currently makes $950,000 a season and just recorded 63 points. 

Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although Bunting is unlikely to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, he is a finalist. Given his placement on the Maple Leafs’ top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, there’s a chance that Bunting might score 70 points (or more) next season. Then what? 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Matthews & Marner: Chemistry Cultivated by PlayStation

“Nor” pointed out that players with numbers like that could bring about $5 million in salary. Then “Nor” asked the question: “Any thoughts on how much resigning Bunting will cost?” To that question, my answer is “I don’t know.” 

Let’s hope we can be having that conversation a year from now, for all sorts of reasons.

Item Two: “Good Dialogue” Between Campbell’s Camp and Maple Leafs

 Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel reported that the Maple Leafs have been talking contract with pending unrestricted free agent Jack Campbell prior to free agency opening on July 13. Siegel quoted Campbell’s agent Kurt Overhardt as noting that the two sides have “had a couple of conversations.”

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Overhardt then noted that, “I think it’s been reported that we haven’t exchanged numbers or anything like that. But we continue to have a good dialogue. There’s still so much time. With Jack, obviously, he’s really interested in coming back and would be committed to doing that. We continue to talk to the club, and we’ve got an open dialogue. Nothing to report other than that.” (from “Latest on Jack Campbell-Maple Leafs negotiations and more: What we’re hearing,” Jonas Siegel, The Athletic, 15/06/2022).

Related: Who Were the Best Full Right Goalies in NHL History?

In a bit of an aside, from outward appearances – which can be really deceiving – I saw Twitter photos of Campbell vacationing in the Caribbean. Even lounging in the sun, I’m certain his mind is far from empty of ice.

Item Three: Time for Some Cheap Help from the Farm

Although it’s great to be in competition for the Stanley Cup each and every season, it has to play havoc with the development of players from one’s own farm system. In some ways, it’s easier to be a team like the Ottawa Senators. It’s fun to see how the Senators keep working with and developing their own players from their own system. For example, although Drake Batherson was a low-round draft choice (round-four, #121 overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, he’s been able to become almost a point-a-game player with the Senators.

Drake Batherson Ottawa Senators
Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Although as a fan I wouldn’t choose to have it any other way, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas seems to always be scrambling to keep his team just as competitive or more competitive than it was the previous season. If you like Dubas or not, you can’t argue with the fact that his teams just keep getting better and better. Obviously, that’s far from good enough for many fans, but Maple Leafs’ fans are presented with great hockey season after season.

Related: The Best NHL Players of All-Time, by Decade

But the price for that constant striving for improvement makes the farm system dynamic, to say the least. From what I can see, fielding a team with the potential to win the Stanley Cup every season creates a farm system that’s in constant flux. 

How does an organization do both? How do you keep all your draft picks and, at the same time, work to immediately improve the team you ice heading into the postseason. I know there’s a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on about Dubas not keeping draft picks; but, the more I study the situation, the tougher it is to do both at the same time.

I’d sure love to see some of the players from the Toronto Marlies move up to the Maple Leafs’ roster this season. Last season, we saw the continuing emergence of both Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. We also saw that the organization is not entirely devoid of goalie talent with both Joseph Woll and Erik Kallgren finding some success with the big club.

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bringing up Marlies’ players is a relatively cheap way to add to the Maple Leafs line up. In addition, it’s really fun to watch the youngsters have time on the ice. Names like Nick Robertson, Pontus Holmberg, Bobby McMann, Curtis Douglas, Joey Anderson, Matthew Knies, Ty Voit, and Vyacheslav Peksa all come to mind. It would be good to see some of them on the big team

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Within a month, Maple Leafs’ fans will begin to put together a bit of a picture of the team heading into the 2022-23 regular season. Who will be gone? Who will be returning?

Related: Maple Leafs Should Have Interest in Philippe Myers

Can general manager Dubas pull any more rabbits from his hat? If so, who? I’m especially interested in Ondrej Kase and what happens with him. There’s so much to know, and some of that will be revealed soon.

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