Bonino gets bigger challenge in Nashville; Pens can’t ‘panic’ to replace him

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In Pittsburgh, Nick Bonino got to play behind two of the best centers in the game, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

And to Bonino’s credit, he made the most of it, winning two championships as the Penguins’ third-line center.

Today, the 29-year-old cashed in on that success, signing a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators. Yep, the same team the Pens just defeated in the Stanley Cup Final. 

The difference in Nashville is that Bonino will be expected to play second-line center, behind only Ryan Johansen. That’s going to mean tougher matchups, with less shelter from above. For what Bonino’s getting paid now, there will be added pressure to perform.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the Pens have yet to land a replacement for Bonino. For GM Jim Rutherford, it’s going to be tough to find someone who offered such great value. The past two years, Bonino’s cap hit was just $1.9 million. Considering how much he was able to produce, particularly during the 2016 Stanley Cup run while centering the HBK Line, he was a terrific bargain.

“I think it’s important now that we don’t panic and just go after somebody to say we got a center,” Rutherford told reporters today, per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby. “It could be in the next day, it could be in the next couple of months, it could take into the season.”