Pittsburgh on verge of trading for Bonino replacement

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The Penguins expect to lose Nick Bonino in free agency, so they’re in the process of finding his replacement.

On Friday, Pens GM Jim Rutherford told the Tribune-Review he’s close to completing a deal that would send a third-line center to Pittsburgh.

“There’s been enough conversation here over the last week that something could happen,” Rutherford said.

Pittsburgh won’t try to replace Bonino via free agency. Rutherford said the available 3Cs were too expensive to acquire given the shallow depth of this year’s market, something reflected in Bonino’s current situation. He’s being courted by a number of clubs, and is believed to be one of the most coveted prizes in free agency.

Whoever Rutherford acquires, there will be a fairly large role for him to fill.

Bonino has been one of the NHL’s best third-line centers over the last two years. This season, he racked up 18 goals and 37 points in 80 games, then another seven in 21 playoff games before suffering a season-ending broken leg in the Stanley Cup Final.

A deft passer that can also put pucks in the back of the net, Bonino regularly manned the Pittsburgh power play. But his game isn’t limited to just offensive contributions — last year, he led all Pittsburgh forwards with 99 blocked shots.