New Wild veteran Nick Bonino to fill in void at center
The Nashville Predators traded center Nick Bonino to the Minnesota Wild for forward Luke Kunin on Wednesday, a swap on the second day of the NHL draft that sent two picks to the Wild and one back to the Predators.
The 32-year-old Bonino will carry a $4.1 million salary cap hit in the final season of the four-year, $16.4 million contract he signed with Nashville. Bonino tied for second on the Predators with 18 goals this season in 67 games, also contributing 17 assists, a plus-17 rating and 89 blocked shots. He’s a left-shot player with 11 years in the NHL who will help fill a void at center while joining his fifth different team.
“I didn’t expect to be doing a press conference this morning when I woke up, but here we are and I’m just trying to make the best of it,” Bonino said on a video conference call with reporters.
He added: “I think you always hope to fulfill your contract and play through it. Obviously I’ve been getting traded over Twitter for the last three years. You’re always seeing rumors around, and you never know if it’s true or not.”
Bonino has played in 98 career playoff games since debuting with the Anaheim Ducks in 2010. Wild general manager Bill Guerin was in Pittsburgh’s front office during Bonino’s stint with the Penguins from 2015-17.
Kunin, who was Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2016, the 15th overall selection, had 15 goals and 16 assists in 63 games with a minus-10 rating for the Wild in 2019-20 in his first full NHL season. The 22-year-old, who has played center and right wing, has 23 goals and 29 assists in 131 career games. He will be a restricted free agent.
Guerin has made three trades this week and five in the last month, jettisoning Kunin, goalie Devan Dubnyk, forward Ryan Donato and center Eric Staal. The Wild have acquired in return three forwards capable of playing center: Bonino, Marcus Johansson and Nick Bjugstad.
The Predators packaged second-round (37th overall) and third-round (70th overall) picks with Bunino and received a fourth-rounder (101st overall) from the Wild along with Kunin.
Taking Bonino off the books was the latest salary-clearing move by Predators general manager David Poile, who also put center Kyle Turris and defenseman Steven Santini on unconditional waivers. Turris had four years and $24 million left on his deal, so his buyout means he’ll count $2 million against Nashville’s cap for the next eight seasons.