It took Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin no time at all to get busy on Wednesday morning, Oct. 7.
After remaining quiet on Day 1 of the NHL draft, he made sure Day 2 started off with a bang, sending Luke Kunin and the No. 101 pick (fourth round) to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Nick Bonino, the No. 37 pick (second round) and the No. 70 pick (third round).
While the additional draft picks could be seen as the prize of the deal down the road, Bonino is a player that will contributor right away next season. Most importantly, he plays center, which is an obvious plus for Guerin, who has talked all offseason about how badly the Wild need more talent up the middle of the ice.
“I’m excited to get to Minny,” Bonino said. “I’ve already had a lot of guys reach out and welcome me and my family. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a great organization from top to bottom. It’s run really well and it’s a great team that’s always a playoff contender.”
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 32-year-old Bonino had 18 goals and 17 assists last season. He sounded rather surprised about the trade, though his guard was already up after getting a spam call and thinking it might be Predators general manager David Poile on the other end.
“It woke me up and I thought to myself, ‘Whoa. Who is this?’,” Bonino said. “It wasn’t David.”
A couple of hours later his phone rang again and this time it was Poile on the other end.
“I got the call from David and knew right away,” Bonino said. “It’s weird how it works out. Just going to make the best of it.”
Not long after that Bonino hopped on the phone with Guerin. He knows him from their time together with the Penguins and said that brings a level of comfort in and of itself.
“There was some joking around a little bit and having that familiarity made it a little bit easier,” Bonino said. “It’s nice to speak with him and excited to get there in person and get to work.”
There wasn’t much talk about Bonino’s role on the team next season. He projects as a bottom six player that will play a solid 200-foot game and can put the puck in the net if given the opportunity. He has 122 goals and 160 assists in 626 career games in the NHL.
“I think I’m a guy who scores 15 to 20 goals,” Bonino said. “I love playing in all situations, end of games, whether we’re down or we’re up, penalty kill, power play. I’ve done it all in my career, and I think I can still do it. Hopefully I can come in and make an impact.”
He will also bring a veteran presence in the locker room. He’s played more than a decade in the league and can offer some perspective for a team that appears to be rebuilding on the fly.
“I’m not going to come in and make a ton of noise,” Bonino said. “I always try to be as positive as I can and go from there. Not really a plan of putting a stamp on a team. Just be myself and hoping that’s good enough.”
On the flip side, this trade closes the chapter on Kunin’s career with the Wild. He was a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, and while some thought he could be a foundational piece for the future, the 22-year-old Kunin struggled to make a meaningful impact in parts of three seasons with the team. He finished last season with 15 goals and 16 assists, bouncing up and down the lineup.
The Wild announced that is has made qualifying offers to the following restricted free agents: defenseman Louie Belpedio, winger Jordan Greenway, goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, and defenseman Brennan Menell.