This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…
For two years, Nick Bonino was one of the best bargains in hockey.
Over that time, he won a couple of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his best work coming as a third-line center behind superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
On July 1, Bonino cashed in on his success, signing a four-year deal with Nashville, where his cap hit will go from $1.9 million to $4.1 million.
Also expected to increase is his role, from third-line center to second-line center.
“It’s great to be behind (Crosby and Malkin), but at the same time ... you want to do more,” the 29-year-old said after signing, per the Tennessean. “That’s just the way it was in (Pittsburgh), and that’s what happens when you have two players like that on the team that are great players. I’m happy for an opportunity.”
It will not be Bonino’s first opportunity to play second-line center in the NHL. His first came in Anaheim behind Ryan Getzlaf. His second was in Vancouver behind Henrik Sedin.
Ultimately, both the Ducks and Canucks chose to trade Bonino in an effort to upgrade the 2C position. Anaheim got Ryan Kesler from Vancouver, and Vancouver got Brandon Sutter from Pittsburgh.
In other words, Bonino has something to prove in Nashville. He’s well-aware that second-line center is no picnic. It comes with tough matchups and minimal shelter from above. It demands both defensive responsibility and offensive production.
Next season, the Predators could start with Ryan Johansen centering the first line, Bonino on the second, and then there’s Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok for the bottom six.
“I think we really are strong down the middle for the first time in a long time,” said GM David Poile, per NHL.com. “This might be as good of a center ice as we’ve ever had.”
It might be, as long as Poile’s right about Bonino’s ability to handle a bigger role.
Otherwise, it may be Sissons or Jarnkrok on the second line, with Bonino back on the third. Because don’t forget, Mike Fisher isn’t an option anymore.