It appears the NHL’s reigning GM of the year suffers from some recency bias. David Poile’s Nashville Predators lost in the Stanley Cup final to the Pittsburgh Penguins less than a month ago, and Poile got a good look at third-line center Nick ‘Bones’ Bonino. He scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s Game 1 victory over the Preds and gutted out Game 2 after a blocked shot gave him what was later revealed to be a broken tibia, ending his season.
He’s an easy player to like – scrappy and clutch, with three career playoff overtime winners to his name. He’s a nice middle-six forward. In the 2016 playoffs, he dominated on the ‘HBK’ line with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin. Bonino’s 29, so he’s not washed up.
But the four-year, $16.4-million deal Nashville handed him Saturday was exorbitant. Bonino has topped 18 goals and 39 points once in his career, and his 5-on-5 possession marks relative to his teammates have graded out on the negative end in all but one of his seasons. He’s a solid player, but the term and cap hit feel like a misstep for Poile.
Given Ryan Johansen centers the first line and Colton Sissons emerged as potential scoring-line option going forward, a Bonino signing hints at the end of Mike Fisher’s time in Nashville. Perhaps he’s retiring. Bonino qualifies as insurance there.
But Bonino doesn’t score enough to be a true No. 2 center despite now being paid like one. That should draw the ire of Preds fans, who clamor for more scoring. Inking Bonino all but ensures Nashville won’t pursue a higher-end option like Colorado’s Matt Duchene, who would’ve been a perfect fit. Trading Colin Wilson to Colorado Saturday did free up more money, but a lot of it must go to restricted free agents Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Frederik Gaudreau, Austin Watson and Pontus Aberg. Johansen and Arvidsson alone might earn more than $12 million annually going forward. And if Fisher does indeed call it quits, the Predators didn’t get any better with the Bonino signing. They only filled a hole – at a heftier price and term than Bonino likely deserved. The back to back Stanley Cup rings appear to have inflated his value.