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The Carolina Hurricanes have signed Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting to a three-year contract, continuing their aggressive start to NHL free agency.

Bunting will make $4.5 million against the salary cap per season. He was on a mild two-year deal that carried an average-annual value of $950,000. The Hurricanes previously signed Dmitry Orlov of the Boston Bruins, the top defenseman on the free-agent market, to a two-year deal with a $7.75 million AAV.

Bunting, who will be 28 when the regular season begins, had 23 goals and 26 assists in 82 games for the Leafs last season, playing with Toronto’s top stars in Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner.

He topped 20 goals in each of the last two seasons with the Maple Leafs after totaling just 11 in two seasons with the Arizona Coyotes.

A 2014 fourth-round pick of the Coyotes, Bunting is best used as an agitating forward who can get to the front of the net and clean up rebounds while playing with a team’s top liners. He topped 80 minutes in penalties in each of the last seasons with Toronto, he is not afraid to mix it up with the opposition in either zone. Bunting plays bigger than his 6-foot, 192-pound frame and can be an offensive asset on a team’s first or second line.

Bunting could slot into a top-line role with Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis in Carolina.

The Toronto-area native was criticized down the stretch for taking ill-timed penalties that culminated in Bunting earned a three-game suspension during the Leafs’ playoff run last spring for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak.

ESPN’s Kristen Shilton contributed to this report

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Former Leafs winger Michael Bunting signs 3-year deal with Canes