After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins it appears as if veteran center Nick Bonino is moving on and will be signing with the team he just helped beat in this year’s Final.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Bonino has signed with the Nashville Predators on Saturday on a four-year contract that will pay him $4.1 million per season.
That addition could also indicate that Nashville will not be getting veteran center Mike Fisher back (he was contemplating retirement) while it would almost certainly give Bonino an expanded role from the one he had in Pittsburgh the past two seasons where he was the team’s third-line center.
During the later stages of the 2015-16 season and through their Stanley Cup run that year that third line, which also consisted of Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin, was arguably Pittsburgh’s best and one of the driving forces behind their championship. It never seemed to produce the same magic this year but Bonino still had his moments, especially during the stretch run of the regular season where he scored the bulk of his 18 goals.
This summer was probably the perfect time for Bonino to hit the unrestricted free agent market.
Not only is it a thin crop of top-line players, especially at center, but he also has a lot of the intangible factors working in his favor, including the fact he is a two-time Cup winner and has scored some huge goals in big moments (the “clutch” factor).
One thing that is going to be a pretty big adjustment for him is that he is probably going to be expected to carry a bit more of the offensive workload in Nashville where it is looking like he would be the No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen. In Pittsburgh, he had the luxury of playing on the third-line behind two of the best offensive players in the world. He could focus more on the defensive side of the game and being more of a complementary player on a cheap contract where any offense he provided was a bonus. Now, with a bigger price tag and what should be a bigger role expectations are going to be a lot higher.