Kyle Turris

Predators’ investment in Bonino is paying off

Sometimes, when a player is on an unsustainable hot streak, it can lead to overreactions. Every now and then, though, such a run of good fortune can shine a spotlight on a good player who normally gets the job done in more subtle ways.

Nick Bonino is off to that sort of start for the Nashville Predators.

Consider that, with eight goals, Bonino is currently tied with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mark Stone, and T.J. Oshie. Overall, Bonino has 12 points in his first 15 games to start 2019-20.

Circling back to that opening paragraph: yes, “Bones” has been undeniably lucky. His eight goals have come on a scant 31 shots on goal, good for a whopping 25.8 shooting percentage. Even for a player who has been a pretty lucky shooter since joining the Predators (no lower than a 14.4 shooting percentage in any campaign since signing before the 2017-18 season), that luck will cool off.

Again, though, that puck luck gives us an opportunity to appreciate just how effective Bonino has been, normally when you ignore the goals and assists.

The book on the Predators has been that, for all their bargains elsewhere on the roster — and getting premium defense, goaltenders, and wingers at high value is ultimately worth it — their centers haven’t been worth what Nashville has paid for. That risk continued when they signed Matt Duchene at $8 million per year, but you could argue the same for Ryan Johansen (also $8M AAV) and most troublingly Kyle Turris ($6M AAV, gulp, through 2023-24).

Bonino and his $4.1M AAV were lumped into that argument, but I’m not so sure how fair that ever was, and he’s been delivering some great play for some time now.

Hockey Viz’s aesthetically appealing heat maps show that Bonino’s had a knack for limiting opponents’ opportunities close to his net, while doing a decent job of creating positive opportunities on the flipside offensively:

Bonino did see a slight dip in 2017-18, his first season in Nashville and away from the glories of the “HBK Line” run with the Penguins, but overall he’s been a solid offensive contributor while seemingly making a considerable impact on defense.

We might explain Bonino’s redemption going under the radar because a) most of the time he’s not scoring like he’s done through the small sample of 2019-20 and b) the mood was generally sour in Nashville toward the end of last season. (It’s amusing that, for all the grief the Predators got for putting up banners, their last Central Division win was met with such indifference.)

Consider how much value Bonino brought to the table in 2018-19 in Goals Above Replacement value, as compiled by Sean Tierney using Evolving Hockey’s data:

Pretty impressive.

The Predators have leaned heavily on Bonino basically since day one, as he’s only begun 32.6 of his shifts in the offensive zone on average in Nashville, with this season so far representing the lowest at just 25 percent.

Such deployment makes it even more likely that Bonino’s offensive numbers will slide. After all, Bonino’s only passed 20 goals once (22), which happened in 2013-14, the only season he hit 40+ points with 49. He was limited to 35 points in 2018-19 and 25 in 2017-18, just to mention his Predators years.

This hot streak gives us a chance to really bask in the under-the-radar work he’s done. If you’ve ever wanted to argue for a player who brings more to the table than meets the eye, then make no “Bones” about Bonino being one of those guys.

If you need to throw out a bunch of Boninos in the process, then so be it.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Letang’s strong start; Kevin Hayes’ life-changing injury

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

John Carlson‘s Norris Trophy campaign has already begun. (TSN.ca)

• The Sabres’ depth issues is being hidden by a really high shooting percentage. (Buffalo News)

• The Blues can overcome the loss of Vladimir Tarasenko short-term, but how do they fill that void long-term? (The Hockey News)

• PHT’s Adam Gretz breaks down Kris Letang‘s great start. (Pensburgh)

• How should Islanders fans feel about their team’s strong start? (Gotham Sports Network)

• The Wild need Jordan Greenway to go ‘beast mode” a little more regularly. (Pioneer Press)

• Losing Gabriel Landeskog could affect where Colorado lands in the Central Division. (Sporting News)

Dougie Hamilton has done a good job in a lead role on the ‘Canes blue line. (Sportsnet)

• There’s a lot of NHL teams that are off to scary starts. (The Guardian)

• The Nashville Predators have a Kyle Turris problem they have to deal with. (A to Z Sports Nashville)

• A life-changing injury prepared Kevin Hayes for Philadelphia. (NBC Sports Philly)

• NHL players rely on ticket sales to get paid. (Seattle Times)

• Who do the Coyotes have on their radar in the 2020 NHL Draft? (Five For Howling)

• Three players need to be consistent for the Flyers to have sustained success. (Puck Prose)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Roman Josi signs eight-year extension with Predators

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It’s been a good month for Swiss hockey players and their bank accounts.

A little over a week after Nico Hischier inked a $50.75 million extension with the Devils, the Predators have signed defenseman Roman Josi to an eight-year deal worth $72.472 million. The contract, which carries a $9.059 million cap hit, kicks in beginning with the 2020-21 NHL season and features $33.75 million in signing bonuses. He’ll also be the owner of the third-highest cap hit among defenseman behind Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million) of the Sharks and the Kings’ Drew Doughty ($11 million).

“Roman Josi is one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League and our team leader as captain,” said Predators GM David Poile. “As he enters his prime, we look forward to Roman continuing to showcase his elite skills in Smashville and guiding our team in pursuit of the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”

Per Pierre LeBrun, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $750,000 salary / $11 million signing bonus
2021-22: $750,000 salary / $10 million signing bonus
2022-23: $1 million salary / $8.75 million signing bonus
2023-24: $5 million salary / $4 million signing bonus
2024-25: $9 million salary
2025-26: $8 million salary
2026-27: $7.222 million salary
2027-28: $7 million salary

In 574 career games in Nashville Josi has 98 goals and 361 points. He’s been a regular in the positive possession department (53% Corsi rating since 2014-15).

Josi is now one of seven Predators who are signed through at least the 2023-24 NHL season, joining Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, and Ryan Ellis.

How much do the Predators value the 29-year-old Josi, who Poile dubbed “our Roger Federer” after naming him captain in Sept. 2017? His deal will include a full no-move clause for the entire length of the contract. The only other time that’s happened was when Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year extension in 2011 and the first four years of the deal featured such trade protection.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Dealing with slumps; Can Farabee give Flyers jolt?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Enjoy the video above of Jimmy Fallon paying off his bet with NJ Devil.

• Dawn Braid is making sure that some NHL players’ skating is up to par. (Sportsnet)

• Tennis legend Billy Jean King made an appearance at the Women’s Hockey Showcase. (NHL.com)

• Grant Fuhr treasures the friends he made in hockey more than the Stanley Cup rings he won. (PA NOW)

• The Flyers need recently recalled forward Joel Farabee to give them a jolt. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• Hockey is a family affair for Casey and Sean Fitzgerald. (The AHL)

• Which NCAA program has produced the most NHL players in the post-lockout era? (The Hockey News)

• The Columbus Blue Jackets are getting a lot of shots off, but they’re not shooting that well. (The Cannon)

• Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk is trying to find a way to deal with his early-season slump. (WEEI)

• The Habs’ power play was one of the worst in the NHL last season, but it’s looking good right now. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• Several key forwards are slumping for the Detroit Red Wings. (MLive.com)

• Should Russians be apprehensive about playing for the Vegas Golden Knights? (Sinbin.Vegas)

• How will the relationship between the Preds and underachieving forward Kyle Turris end? (Predlines)

Corey Perry‘s return to the lineup might give Dallas a much-needed boost. (Blackout Dallas)

• Here’s how the Devils and Nico Hischier worked out their new long-term extension. (NJ.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

How worried should winless Sharks be after loss to Predators?

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With the nostalgic signing of Patrick Marleau, plenty of San Jose Sharks fans were thinking of the past on Tuesday. That’s good, because right now, the present hasn’t been pretty.

The Sharks sunk to 0-4-0 on the young 2019-20 season after the Nashville Predators beat them 5-2. This is San Jose’s second 0-4-0 start in franchise history, with the only other instance coming in their awkward earlier phase in 1993-94.

Is it time to play the “Jaws” theme for a rattled Sharks group, or is too soon to ponder such horrors? Let’s bat around a few thoughts.

Sharks’ offense not going swimmingly

Tuesday’s performance brought out backhanded compliments.

After only managing a goal apiece in their first three losses, the Sharks finally scored two goals. Granted, it felt a little empty, as Brent Burns made it 4-2 with about 4:23 remaining in the third period. Also, they finally scored a goal on the power play.

San Jose managed a strong effort in the second period, but Pekka Rinne managed to only allow an Evander Kane deflection goal during that middle frame. Much like against Minnesota, Nashville really turned up the power in the third period to pull away from the Sharks.

A few players stick out as needing more. Timo Meier seemed like a bargain at a $6M AAV, but so far, he’s been ice cold, opening the season without a goal or an assist. Tomas Hertl brought hype as possibly the Sharks’ best center over Logan Couture, yet while Couture is contributing, Hertl is also at a goose egg.

Sharks get stung in transition

To some extent, San Jose is going to “live by the sword, and die by the sword” when it comes to gambling ways from defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. Karlsson’s attempt to transition died a painful death on this Filip Forsberg goal:

While Burns has been reasonably productive, Karlsson’s off to a slow start, with an assist in three games (and a healthy baby being born keeping him from the season-opener … maybe he just needs to get his sleep schedule right?).

San Jose is awfully top-heavy, so they’re going to need their best guys to be strong. That perceived lack of depth might mean more tough nights like these than the Sharks are accustomed to.

Predators’ mix looks good again

Matt Duchene now has six assists in his first three games in gold. That pass to Forsberg in the 4-1 goal above ranks as one of his sweetest dishes, and he’s had some great moments that didn’t end up on the scoreboard. Duchene made a fantastic toe-drag move during Tuesday’s game but was thwarted by Martin Jones, while he made a tremendous play to Mikael Granlund that forced Devan Dubnyk to make a highlight reel save in the team’s opener.

As Duchene could attest considering the early reactions to his cold start in Ottawa vs. the misleadingly hot Nashville start for Kyle Turris, it’s too early to say that the Predators “won” in essentially trading Duchene for P.K. Subban. Subban may eventually prove to be a more positive impact-player, all-around, for New Jersey.

The Predators were looking for the right combination of offense, defense, and goaltending in bringing in Duchene, though, and he might just give Nashville that extra gamebreaker to reach that next level.

That’s because Nashville already had some of those, from Forsberg to Roman Josi, who scored two goals and looks like he’ll cost someone (maybe the Predators, maybe a different team) a pretty penny on his next contract.

The Sharks don’t need to panic about making the playoffs, yet with each loss, they are certainly making their climb bumpier, especially as the Vegas Golden Knights appear as molten-hot as the Sharks are ice-cold. Besides, they faced a dangerous Vegas team twice, the Ducks are quietly undefeated, and the Predators could very well be the real deal.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.