The Nashville Predators have signed center Nick Bonino to a four-year deal once the free agency period officially starts on Saturday.
Per Adam Vingan of the Tennessean, his annual cap hit will be $4.1 million.
Bonino, seen above with his wife and daughter moments after the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup on Nashville ice last month, is a smart move considering captain Mike Fisher might decide to hang up his skates. Fisher has yet to decide his future, per General Manager David Poile on Friday night.
“The number one goal was to replace James Neal in our top nine forwards and we did that with Nick Bonino,” General Manager David Poile said. “I think we’re really strong down the middle for the first time in a long time. This might be as good a center ice as we’ve ever had.”
Assuming Fisher retires, down the middle, the Preds roster now features Ryan Johansen (24 years old), Colton Sissons (23), Bonino (29), Calle Jarnkrok (25) and/or Austin Watson (25). If Fisher returns, that depth looks even better.
While a nice addition to the club, Bonino signing here doesn’t necessarily answer the question as to who the second line center is. He’s had three 30-point seasons but only one campaign over 40 (and that was four seasons ago). After his performance during the playoffs, Sissons certainly looks like he can contribute but is he ready for full-time duty in that slot? Is Bonino a safety net in case he isn’t?
“He’s a real winner,” Poile said. “Winning two Stanley Cups in a row with the Penguins and, in addition to that, in his NCAA career with Boston University, he won [the National Championship] there. He will be the only Stanley Cup winner on our roster.”
The Hartford, Connecticut native will fit in quite well, regardless of where he plays. Preds fans are just eager to solve this second line center issue so they can feel better about the 2017-18 season and all the promise it has fresh off a run to the Cup Final.
The two-time Cup winner has 187 points in his 407 game career but most of that production came in his last four seasons. He missed most of the 2017 Final due to injury but his heart was never questioned. Despite suffering a broken tibia, Bonino constantly took warm ups in hopes he could power through.
“He’s among the top forwards in average ice time,” Poile said. “He plays in all shorthanded situations and also on the power play. He led all NHL forwards in blocked shots with 99, which is the fourth highest total by a forward since the 2005-06 season. He gives us a lot fo flexibility.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover