Newark — The New Jersey Devils are reportedly in the market for a center. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, a center hit the waiver wire that the Devils should consider taking a flier on.
The New York Rangers placed veteran Nick Bonino on waivers for the purpose of a contract termination. According to The Athletic reporter, Peter Baugh, the Rangers “gave Nick Bonino the All-Star Break to think things over after he cleared waivers. He decided he didn’t want to report to the AHL and asked the Rangers to terminate his contract. The team, which has a lot of respect for him, honored that request.”
If the Devils wanted, they could certainly scoop Bonino up off waivers. He costs a cheap $800K via cap hit through the remainder of the 2023-24 regular season. Or, they could allow him to pass through waivers and sign him as a free agent for a lower AAV, although, it doesn’t get any lower than $750K for the veteran.
The Devils obviously lost a defensive center in Michael McLeod. Now, the Devils can use a defensive-minded center who knows how to kill penalties and win faceoffs. Bonino fits the bill.
Bonino is on the positive side of winning draws winning 51.0% of draws in 45 games this season. He’s not going to light the lamp a ton. He’s scored just one goal and five points this season, however, the 35-year-old center is strong in a shutdown role and a penalty killer who isn’t afraid to block shots. And, he’s not far removed from scoring double-digit goals in a bottom-six role. From 2016 all the way through the end of 2023, he’s scored at least 10 or more goals in a season.
Offense aside, the truth of the matter is the Devils are a defensively weaker team this season and it’s not just on the blue line. Bonino is a cheap option that the Devils can pluck and place right into the bottom six of their lineup. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the former Pittsburgh Penguins forward is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with 105 games of playoff experience.
The Devils clearly like keeping all of Dawson Mercer, Erik Haula, and Curtis Lazar on the wings. Having Bonino around allows Lindy Ruff to do so.
With the Devils’ newfound cap space and bigger needs to address via trade, Bonino is certainly a center option GM Tom Fitzgerald should consider claiming, or signing once he’s terminated from the Rangers. Besides, he’s already living quite close.