Rangers place Nick Bonino on waivers; What happens next?

NHL: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Bonino was placed on waivers Wednesday by the New York Rangers. What happens next for the veteran center and the Rangers remains to be seen.

In the short term, Bonino will wait to see if he’s claimed by another team. That’s unlikely, even given his prorated $800,000 salary cap hit and being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Rangers recalled forward Jake Leschyshyn from the Hartford Wolf Pack to replace Bonino on the roster for the time being.

Update: Nick Bonino cleared waivers and has been assisgned to Hartford of the American Hockey League

Signed by the Rangers this past offseason, Bonino averaged 12:15 in ice time and won 51 percent of his face-offs. His metrics were not great and he had only five points (one goal, four assists) and was a team-worst minus-12 in 45 games, playing a bottom-six role.

Per Vince Mercogliano, Peter Laviolette spoke highly of Bonino, saying, “He met with Chris Drury this morning. It’s the decision that was made. I’ve worked with Nick for quite a few years going back to Nashville. I can’t speak enough about him as a person. He’s just a good guy, a good teammate. It’s a tough day.”

The biggest issue was likely his offensive production after Bonino scored at least 10 goals each of the past seven seasons. The same can be said for the majority of the bottom-six group. The Rangers have had a hard time getting scoring from this part of the lineup all season and it has hurt them when the top two lines are not producing. It is possible that placing Bonino on waivers means general manager Chris Drury is getting ready to make a move, potentially bringing in a bottom-six forward with more offensive upside, ahead of the NHL trade deadline March 8.

Related: Blockbuster trade deadline deal with Senators could be what Rangers need

Rangers could make trade or be preparing for Filip Chytil return with Nick Bonino on waivers

Another potential reason for the move is that the Rangers are gearing up for the long-awaited return of Filip Chytil. After returning to New York earlier this week, Chytil took part in his first practice with the Rangers on Thursday, wearing a red no-contact jersey and slotting in the third-line center position.

Update: Filip Chytil suffers injury setback at Rangers morning skate Friday

Though most of the bottom-six forwards have struggled to produce, Bonino appears to be the first and easiest casualty, especially since Barclay Goodrow’s contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Should Bonino clear waivers, he may be assigned to Hartford. However, it appears the Rangers could release Bonino if that’s what the respected 35-year-old prefers.

The Rangers coaching staff may also be in favor of Jonny Brodzinski playing center in the bottom-six as he has more speed and potential for more production. In 28 games this season, Brodzinski has registered one goal and eight assists.

With Chytil gearing up to return, here is a possible look at the forward lines once he is back:

Kreider – Zibanejad – Wheeler
Panarin – Trocheck – Lafreniere
Cuylle – Chytil – Kakko
Vesey – Brodzinski – Goodrow

This version of New York’s forward lines comes with much more depth as well as an added scoring touch on the third and fourth lines. The third line of Cuylle-Chytil-Kakko has the potential to be a perfect blend of physicality, defensive ability, play making, and scoring.

It is also important to note that Kaapo Kakko and Blake Wheeler are seemingly interchangeable at this point. They could swap first- and third-line roles. If and when the Rangers acquire a true first-line right wing, one of these two forwards may be the odd man out, unless they can find a team willing to take on Goodrow and his $3.64 million contract for the next three seasons. That’ll be no small feat.

The move could be the start of a snowball effect for Drury and the Rangers, who have been underwhelming lately compared to the standard they set over to begin the season. The NHL trade deadline is quickly approaching, and the Rangers have limited salary cap space to work with. Drury will have to start putting things into motion soon if he wants to bring in a piece or two to strengthen the Rangers for a Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh