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Predators move quickly, sign Nick Bonino, Scott Hartnell to contracts

Forwards will help Nashville overcome loss of James Neal in NHL Expansion Draft

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators on Saturday reacted quickly to replenish their forwards by signing Nick Bonino and Scott Hartnell on the opening day of NHL free agency.

Bonino signed a four-year, $16.4 million contract and Hartnell got a one-year, $1 million deal. They will help make up for the loss of forward James Neal, who was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. 

The Predators also acquired defenseman Alexei Emelin from the Golden Knights for a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and signed goalie Anders Lindback, who played last season in Sweden after spending the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes.  

Bonino, 29, won the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including against the Predators in the 2017 Final. Even though the center was out for most of the Final with a broken tibia, the atmosphere he witnessed in Nashville was a significant factor in his decision.

 

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"It was big," Bonino said. "I've been in the League long enough to know how great a city Nashville is. Guys love going there. Guys love going on Broadway and watching some live music and eating all the great food, but to see that intensity that the city had for the playoffs and then to experience it in the Final, I was trying to play on a broken leg and it made me that much closer to playing, just in warmups. 

"That crowd was amazing. It was so loud, it was so exciting. It was something that I think any player would be pretty happy to play in front of."

Bonino finished the 2016-17 regular season with 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists) in 80 games. He said he expects to be the second-line center for the Predators and is looking forward to having a larger role than he had with the Penguins behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Video: Nick Bonino joins the guys on NHL Tonight

"I think so. I think from some of the discussions we've had, that seems to be the case now," Bonino said. "I think throughout my career, in Anaheim I had a really good year. I got a lot of power play time and then I got traded away. In Vancouver, I didn't get a lot of power play time. I had a lot of even strength. I got traded away then and then in Pittsburgh, it's great to be behind [Crosby and Malkin] but at the same time, coming from playing more minutes the two years previous, at least even strength wise, you want to do more.

"I think when that 'HBK Line' had success and when I was able to score a lot of goals even this year was when [Malkin] was hurt and there was a little bit more ice available. That's just the way it was in [Pittsburgh] and that's what happens when you have two players like that on the team. They're great players. So I'm happy for an opportunity, and I'm sure the coach and I will talk going forward about what my role will be."

The Predators expect Hartnell, 35, to have a larger role than he had with the Columbus Blue Jackets and to be a key part of their power play. He finished the 2016-17 regular season with 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 78 games.

"I think maybe my best way of saying it is [Hartnell] might be kind of a utility fix type of guy," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "I certainly see him being used on the power play in the net-front presence. That could be a big difference for us this year with the guys that we've got on the point. I think that whatever amount of ice time that he got in Columbus last year, I think it'll be a good chance he'll get more ice time with us."

Video: Predators sign F Scott Hartnell to 1-year deal

Hartnell, who played for Predators coach Peter Laviolette when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, was selected by the Predators in the first round (No. 6) of the 2000 NHL Draft.

"Absolutely love the guy," Hartnell said. "How do you not love his intensity? He's so well-spoken. He gets the boys going, and for our Stanley Cup run in Philadelphia, it was 100 percent because of Laviolette. I was sad to see him go in Philly and was happy for him to come to a great team in Nashville. I've just been a fan of him ever since the first day he started coaching me. 

"Talking to Shea Weber last year and Ryan Johansen the last couple days, everyone loved his personality, loved his attitude and just loves his system, and it works, obviously, right? He's done a pretty good job throughout his coaching career so just excited to be a part of the fold and you respect a guy that's in charge like [Laviolette]. Like I said, I can't wait to get this season rolling."

Poile said Friday that captain Mike Fisher needs more time to decide whether he will retire. The Predators plan on having room for Fisher on their roster should he choose to re-sign. 

"I've had a couple of discussions with Mike Fisher," Poile said. "He and I are in a good place." 

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