Nick Bonino. Image by: Getty Images
Predators less likely to chase a high-impact forward after shelling out more than $4 million a year for a two-way center.
It appears the NHL’s reigning GM of the year suffers from some recency bias. David Poile’s Nashville Predators lost in the Stanley Cup final to the Pittsburgh Penguins less than a month ago, and Poile got a good look at third-line center Nick ‘Bones’ Bonino. He scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s Game 1 victory over the Preds and gutted out Game 2 after a blocked shot gave him what was later revealed to be a broken tibia, ending his season.
He’s an easy player to like – scrappy and clutch, with three career playoff overtime winners to his name. He’s a nice middle-six forward. In the 2016 playoffs, he dominated on the ‘HBK’ line with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin. Bonino’s 29, so he’s not washed up.
But the four-year, $16.4-million deal Nashville handed him Saturday was exorbitant. Bonino has topped 18 goals and 39 points once in his career, and his 5-on-5 possession marks relative to his teammates have graded out on the negative end in all but one of his seasons. He’s a solid player, but the term and cap hit feel like a misstep for Poile.
Given Ryan Johansen centers the first line and Colton Sissons emerged as potential scoring-line option going forward, a Bonino signing hints at the end of Mike Fisher’s time in Nashville. Perhaps he’s retiring. Bonino qualifies as insurance there.
But Bonino doesn’t score enough to be a true No. 2 center despite now being paid like one. That should draw the ire of Preds fans, who clamor for more scoring. Inking Bonino all but ensures Nashville won’t pursue a higher-end option like Colorado’s Matt Duchene, who would’ve been a perfect fit. Trading Colin Wilson to Colorado Saturday did free up more money, but a lot of it must go to restricted free agents Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Frederik Gaudreau, Austin Watson and Pontus Aberg. Johansen and Arvidsson alone might earn more than $12 million annually going forward. And if Fisher does indeed call it quits, the Predators didn’t get any better with the Bonino signing. They only filled a hole – at a heftier price and term than Bonino likely deserved. The back to back Stanley Cup rings appear to have inflated his value.
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