Acquiring Nick Bonino in last summer’s free agency was a huge step for the Predators’ front office. Bonino provided (and provides) a reliable third-line center who can transition between roles and offer defensive reliability. Many Pittsburgh-centered articles mourned the loss of Bonino, as he was the center of the HBK line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel) of 2016 Stanley Cup fame.
Injured in last year’s Cup Final by none other than P.K. Subban, Bonino spent the summer rehabbing from a tibia injury. He was able to participate in training camp, but at some point in October, Bonino re-injured himself and was unable to be a big factor in the early part of the 2017-18 season.
Bonino didn’t bounce around too much as the season went on. He played a lot with Scott Hartnell and Calle Jarnkrok and had success with both. Eventually Ryan Hartman also found some playing time with Bonino.
In addition to bringing some leadership and experience to the locker room, Bonino had himself a good season (by some measurements). Being out for a chunk of the early part of the season got him off to a slow start, plus, in his early games as a Predator before becoming injured again, Bonino looked like he was trying to return to 100% while playing. He finished with 25 points in 71 games, a bit lower than his normal point production, albeit returning from an injury.
Many are not happy with Bonino’s contract. He’s 30 and signed through the 2020-2021 season at $4.1 million annually. But with a healthy Nick Bonino next season, youngsters like Hartman and Eeli Tolvanen will have a dependable center as they find their spot on the Nashville roster, especially with Tolvanen likely in a middle six scoring role.
Also, Bonino looked incredibly comfortable with Colton Sissons and Austin Watson in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That line was great against the Colorado Avalanche, though hey could not find that same gear against the Winnipeg Jets.
Bonino scored some pretty goals, but nothing beats this gorgeous goal in a regular-season stomping of the Jets at Bridgestone Arena:
Bonino was also incredible in the Preds’ Game 6 defeat of the Avalanche:
This awesome goal is also worth a mention:
I cannot think of a blatantly “bad” Bonino moment. He has some good hockey IQ and generally was in the right place at the right time.
The early part of 2017 was not a good time for Bonino. Signing a new contract? Awesome. Trying to get your legs back under you after being out with a broken tibia? Not so awesome. Suffer another super-specific “lower body injury”? Even less awesome.
I was also a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Bonino’s epic Stanley Cup Final beard. He grows a ridiculously awesome beard…it’s magical. I hope to see the Bonino Beard in it’s full glory next year.
Nick Bonino did exactly as we expected. Clutch goals, veteran presence, solid centering of a third line. Even with his re-injury last fall, Bonino put up nice points on a team that saw scoring from nearly every player. While none of those goals were “Boninoboninoboninoboninobonino” worthy, his addition to the 2017-18 Predators was a welcome one.
Bonino was a bit above average. His contributions to the third line were much-needed as GM David Poile built a powerful top 9. With a better showing in Round 2, Bonino would really have cemented his spot in the hearts of fans who know that this current Predators roster is talented enough to threaten with all four lines.