Should the Predators be looking to sign Nick Bonino?
Now that both the expansion and entry-level NHL Drafts are over with it’s time to look at some unrestricted free-agents that may or may not be a good fit in Nashville. First up in our series is center Nick Bonino.
The 29-year-old Bonino is coming off of a 37 point (18 G, 19A) regular season and was a big part of the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup runs over the past two seasons. Bonino had four goals and three helpers in 21 games played this postseason including two goals in Game One against Nashville in the Cup Final.
Bonino has been the third-line center for the Penguins playing behind two of the best centers in the NHL in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. It’s safe to say Bonino won’t be busting up the center depth chart in Pittsburgh, but he could be a top-six center for the Preds.
He is also the definition of a two-way forward. Bonino averaged 16:39 of ice time this season including 2:17 on the penalty kill and 1:43 on the power play per contest where he scored six power play goals. He finished fourth on the team in blocked shots with 99 and second among Penguins in takeaways with 41. One of the strongest aspects of Bonino’s game is faceoffs; he was the No. 2 faceoff man for the Penguins behind only Crosby in terms of total draws taken (1,213) winning 48 percent of them. Looking at those numbers and his two-way ability, he could be a strong addition to replace Mike Fisher if the Preds captain decides to retire this summer.
A look at Bonino and Fisher side-by-side. All numbers reflect 5-on-5 play per 60 minutes with 5 being the average around the league:
In looking at his offensive numbers, they certainly don’t jump off the page, but in three of his last four seasons he has registered at least 37 points including a 49-point campaign with the Ducks back in 2013-14. Bonino registered 142 shots on goal this season in 80 games for an average of 1.8 shots per game which would have put him at 10th among Preds this season. His 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage of 46.3 percent may alarm some, but his above average shooting percentage of 12.7 percent and two-way ability could make him a strong addition to any team around the league.
Bonino carried a cap-hit of $1.9 million last season with an AAV of $2.1 million. As for Pittsburgh’s cap situation, the Penguins currently have a projected cap-space of $18.9 million which isn’t a small amount by any means, but the Penguins have other unrestricted and restricted free-agents that they’ll be looking to re-sign as well including the likes of Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz, Conor Sheary, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz.
It is no secret that the Penguins will be looking to re-sign Bonino, but the fact of the matter is that Bonino is due a rather large pay increase, likely around the $4 million per year mark, and the Penguins may not be able to offer him that type of money when it’s all said and done. Pittsburgh General Manager Jim Rutherford has reportedly told all of the team’s unrestricted free-agents to hit the open market on July 1, see what the numbers look like, and come back to the Penguins with that number per The Post-Gazette.
Nashville has a projected cap-space of $22.7 million, but that number will decrease after re-signing free-agents on their own books which include Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson who both will be looking for rather large increases in salary.
So, back to the question at hand, should the Preds look to add Bonino? The answer is yes, particularly if one situation arises. The biggest factor here is the offseason’s biggest question; whether or not Fisher is going to retire or sign on for at least one more year with Nashville. If Fisher decides to hang up the skates, Bonino should be a priority when it comes to unrestricted free-agents for the Preds.
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If Fisher doesn’t retire, signing Bonino – who again will be looking for a pay raise – may not be the Preds or their fans most wishful move, but the Preds would become a better team by adding Bonino. One of the most important things to look at here is of course Bonino’s salary. If he could be signed for around the $3.5 million AAV mark, no more than the $4.2 million per year range, then signing Bonino would be a huge addition both on and off the ice.
Adding Nick Bonino would add a boost to Nashville’s special teams units while also giving them a two-way center that does have the ability to find the scoresheet at a reasonable rate. Bonino is a complete player in the sense he doest it all. He’s also a very experienced player at just 29-years-old winning two Stanley Cups and that type of experience is rare.
Bonino should be on the Predators’ radar if the price tag isn’t too high.
Salary figures via CapFriendly.