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Bonino Arrives in Nashville, Reaffirms Excitement to Play for Preds

Center Says Nashville Topped His List of Destinations in Free Agency

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Nick Bonino said it was one of the most stressful weeks of his entire life.

After winning his second Stanley Cup in as many seasons in Pittsburgh, he was expecting some relaxing downtime leading into free agency. But once it became clear he wouldn't be signing another contract with the Penguins, the thoughts started racing.

Would teams call? What kind of offers would he receive? Would said offers come from a team he wanted to play for?

It didn't take long for the Predators to make their interest known with a phone call on day one of the free agency courting period, and that was all Bonino needed to hear.

"Nashville was there from [the beginning] and was my No. 1 the whole way," Bonino said Thursday from Bridgestone Arena during his first visit to Nashville as a member of the Preds. "I'm very happy and fortunate to get a deal done.

"It was a team that I know has a chance to win immediately, and it's somewhere I definitely wanted to be."

Predators General Manager David Poile made that happen when he inked the centerman to a four-year, $16.4 million deal on July 1 to bring Bonino on board and instantly increase Nashville's depth down the middle of the ice.

Now that a few days have passed since the deal has become official, the stress levels have lowered for Bonino as he gradually gets acquainted with his new city.

Video: Nick Bonino discusses his impressions of Nashville

He, along with his wife, Lauren, and daughter, Maisie, touched down in Tennessee on Wednesday and began to explore, meeting with a realtor, touring team facilities and letting his new surroundings sink in.

Being back in the building where he and his former teammates celebrated a championship just a few weeks ago did bring back memories, but it also conjured up the sights and sounds of a city that finally got the credit it deserved as a hockey town during its run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino, who suffered a broken leg against the Predators early in the Final, took warmups in Game Four back in Nashville in an attempt to play. While he ultimately wasn't able to participate, something about that experience prior to Game Four almost brought a different result.

"I think when I did get hurt in Game Two and tried to play here in Game Four, just going out for warmups was almost enough to make my leg not broken," Bonino said. "It was pretty loud, it was pretty exciting and I came out for every national anthem to see the building and the excitement. It's definitely a part of signing here for sure."

Now that he's done so, he's looking forward to an increased role, something greater than what he had in Pittsburgh playing behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at center, and something he believes he'll be able to handle, just as he did earlier in his career with the Ducks and Canucks.

"When [Malkin] got hurt, I think that was when I got a lot of my points in [Pittsburgh], when there was more ice time, and I'm looking forward to it," Bonino said. "I had bigger roles in Anaheim and Vancouver and definitely looking forward to it. But we'll let the chips fall where they may here, and I'll talk with coach and we'll see what happens."

Bonino knows he may not be the savior who proves to be the final piece the Predators need, but he's also aware of what he can bring to the lineup.

"I'm just coming to try to help a team that was really good the last few years maybe get a little bit better," Bonino said. "I'll do whatever I can to help, whether that's offensively or defensively, and just play hard and see if I can help them."

He'll be doing so in a building - in front of a fanbase - that made quite an impression on him. And soon enough, he'll drive into the rink from his new Nashville home for the first time to experience it all over again.

"It was electric; my wife was here for [Game Six of the Final] and she said she couldn't even hear herself think," Bonino said. "That's something that you don't get in every building, and it's something I'm definitely excited to play in front of."

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