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Should the Oilers sign Nick Bonino?

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Photo credit:Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
14 days ago
After refusing to report to their AHL club, the New York Rangers and forward Nick Bonino have mutually agreed to terminate his contract.2
And now, after clearing unconditional waivers on Wednesday, the 35-year-old veteran of 868 NHL games is free to sign with any club he pleases. The Edmonton Oilers, meanwhile, are still looking to tweak their roster, likely in search of a forward and an upgrade.
Does it make sense for them to take a look at Bonino?
Over the last four seasons, he’s bounced between the Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and most recently, the Rangers. He’s piled up 27 goals and 50 points over 187 games, but all of that offence came in the first year and a half with the Sharks, where he scored 45 points in 139 games.
His offence has dried right up this year, with just one goal and five points in 45 games playing in a fourth-line role. With him on the ice at 5v5, the Rangers controlled just 44.97 percent of the shot attempt share, 51.06 percent of the expected goal share and 47.58 percent of the scoring chances. They, however, controlled just 28.57 percent of the actual goals scored, being outscored 20-8 over his 444 minutes and a 95.7 PDO that surely didn’t help.
Bonino’s individual impacts, too, have dried right up over the last two years, with contributions equalling that of a 13th forward, according to hockeyviz.com. At even-strength, according to the same site, his offensive contributions are 10 percent below league average, and defence at a four percent rate below league average. His penalty kill impact is solid, at a two percent club above league average.
He doesn’t have anything in the way of skating ability, with his top speed and speed bursts all below the 50th percentile, according to NHL Edge, but where he does have success is in the faceoff dot, winning 51.1 percent of his draws over the last four years.
But as a left-shot, does that really fill any sort of void? I’d argue no, given that as a team this season, the Oilers 52.2 percent win rate in the faceoff circle is seventh in the league.
While he did lift the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in both 2017 and 2018, he’s a much different player now at 35, than he was at 27 and 28 years old.
The Oilers could surely take a shot, signing Bonino to a league-minimum contract to serve as an extra forward, but it’s hard to imagine it being a move where the Oilers would actually come out on top. He’s struggled to find much, if any success against any competition over the last numbers of years, and the Oilers would likely be wise to look else where to fill a depth spot in their forward corps, because I don’t see any value he would bring over a player like Sam Gagner, who already serves as the Oilers’ extra forward.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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