Nick Bonino is the perfect fourth-line center for Rangers
The New York Rangers acquired two former Stanley Cup champions at last season’s trade deadline. Unfortunately, neither Patrick Kane nor Vladimir Tarasenko assisted the Rangers in reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Due to cap issues, both became unrestricted free agents on July 1.
Interestingly, general manager Chris Drury acquired Nick Bonino and Blake Wheeler to find a more veteran presence to help the younger kids reach their potential. Although Wheeler has never won a championship, he has a ton of leadership experience, serving as the captain of the Winnipeg Jets for six seasons prior to being stripped of the title last season.
Meanwhile, Bonino comes to Broadway after splitting last year between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Ultimately, he became one of the most decorated members of the 2023-24 Rangers, with two titles from his days with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Bonino’s experience and statistics made him a bottom-six gem
Last season, Mika Zibanejad led all New York centers with 39 goals and 91 points, beating out Vincent Trocheck (64 points) and Filip Chytil (45). After that, the team’s production amongst the position drops significantly.
Although seven skaters played at least one game at center for the team last year, the fourth-highest scorer was Tyler Motte, who tallied ten points in 24 games. Meanwhile, Bonino collected 19 points in 62 games between two different clubs. Even though that was his lowest total in ten seasons, he’s still got a lot of hockey left to play at just 34 years old.
Bonino immediately makes the Rangers a tougher opponent
According to projected lineups listed on DailyFaceoff.com, Bonino will be between Barclay Goodrow and Tyler Pitlick on the fourth line. Considering Goodrow is a bottom-six winger, he averaged 14:10 in ice time last year, a minute less per game than Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere. Furthermore, he played about 30 seconds less than Filip Chytil, considered a third-line guy.
Interestingly, Goodrow finished second in penalty minutes, and as one of seven players who played in every game (82), he was the only one out of the group to not register 100 shots on goal with just 89. Meanwhile, in just 62 games, Bonino fired 91 pucks on goal, which means he will bring more action to the fourth line.
Since Bonino is the oldest player (34) in his spot in the lineup, outranking Goodrow (29) and Pitlick (31), he should serve as the leader of his line. Even though the Rangers sought winners at the trade deadline, their plans didn’t work. However, acquiring Bonino brings that same pedigree without the flash and dash.
Interestingly, the Ranger’s offseason plans have some fans thinking the team got older and slower. But at bargain prices, these new players, including Bonino, bring invaluable experience in the room and on the bench. Even if he fails to reach 20 goals or even 50 points, he’s a significant upgrade in the bottom portion of the lineup, making the Rangers even tougher to play against in 2023-24.