Nick Bonino could be the Rangers best offseason addition

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers training camp is well underway for the 2023-2024 season with several storylines front and center. From Peter Laviolette’s first season as head coach, to Alexis Lafrenière moving to right wing, there are certainly many intriguing things to look for as opening night approaches. However, one storyline has been overlooked, the signing of 35-year-old, Nick Bonino.

When Bonino met the media last week, he revealed his ongoing relationship and a possibility of joining the Rangers which dates back several years.

“I’ve talked with the Rangers since [2017] when I was a free agent but ended going to Nashville,” Bonino said, highlighting his long-standing relationship with the organization. “Chris (Drury) and my agent know each other well and have always been in touch.”

Bonino was signed this offseason to a one-year, $800,000 contract, one of several deals in which the Rangers spent less than $1 million. In 62 games with the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2022–23, Bonino collected 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points. For his career, the Hartford, Connecticut native has registered 353 points across 14 NHL seasons.

What Nick Bonino brings to the Rangers

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at San Jose Sharks
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Hockey’s high stakes pressures are nothing new to Bonino. He has played a crucial role on Stanley Cup-winning teams and became an accomplished competitor thanks to his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won titles in 2016 and 2017.

Bonino’s championship mentality can act as a driving force for a Rangers team that is filled with young talent. The young core of the Rangers could benefit greatly from his willingness to serve as a mentor and share lessons learned during his lengthy playoff runs.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here,” Bonino explained about what he can bring to the room. “The way I’ll approach it is to be myself, speak when something needs to be said… they’ve got a great leadership group here.”

The numbers for Bonino show that he is a defensive specialist. He’s consistently had excellent defensive metrics throughout his career, which makes him a solid choice in critical shutdown situations. In addition, it is notable that he’s a skilled penalty killer. It’s something we shoud see here if past is prologue. The center played over 2 minutes of shorthanded time per game on average during the 2019–2020 season under Laviolette in Nashville, demonstrating the confidence his coach has in his defensive ability.

Although Bonino is often praised for his defense, he is also a capable offensive player. His career-best season, in which he produced 49 points, was in 2013-2014. Historically, he has been a consistent 30-to-40-point scorer. He’s known as a clutch player because of his ability to score in pressure-filled situations. Bonino scored many important goals during the Penguins’ 2016 postseason run, including a second round series-clinching goal in overtime against the Washington Capitals.

Bonino’s game is noteworthy for all his underrated qualities. With his versatility, he gives coaches more options when selecting their starting lineup. Furthermore, the Rangers can depend on him in crucial face-off situations, whether they are in the offensive, defensive, or neutral zones, because of his consistent face-off percentage, which has stayed around the 50% mark throughout his career.

Given that the Rangers are looking like serious Stanley Cup contenders, Bonino’s choice to finally don the Rangers jersey felt appropriate. He expressed his excitement about the possibilities of the current lineup by saying, “This year seemed like a great fit. I’m excited to join a Cup contending team and try to help.”

Bonino is expected to be the Rangers’ fourth line center, with a combination of Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Pitlick and/or Jimmy Vesey as his line mates.

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