The Minnesota Wild certainly have some big off-season decisions including the restricted free-agent contracts of Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kevin Fiala. But let’s dive in and discuss two pending unrestricted free agents in Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad, and try and decide which one will be brought back to Minnesota.
Nick Bjugstad, was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a seventh round draft choice the last year by Wild general manager Bill Guerin. It didn’t turn up to be a bad value pick up for the Wild, especially down the middle on a team that lacks depth at the center position.
Besides hitting the injury bug, Bjugstad still performed well and ended up with six goals and 11 assists in the regular season.. A former first round pick, Bjugstad probably performed better than most would have expected.
A few questions in Bjugstad’s case:
Is he able to pick up the pace?
Is he able to be more consistent?
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Is he able to maintain a top-six role on this team moving forward? In simple form, If Bjugstad is slow and sluggish — like Victor Rask — then it’s a no. Could Bjugstad carry his weight to play with a guy like Kaprizov every night? In every way, yes of course.
Fans remember how Mats Zuccarello was until star-in-the-making Kirill Kaprizov came along and immediately formed chemistry?. The same case could be made for Bjugstad here.
Bjugstad was somewhat decent in his first few years in Florida putting up numbers that would be expected of a player playing a middle six role, one that I don’t think Bjugstad is looking for.
It’s a role the Wild may look to give to the other guy we’re about to talk about.
The Wild obtained Nick Bonino in a trade during the 2020 NHL entry draft. He brought so much more to the Wild this past season than the shirts saying “Bonino! Bonino!! Bonino!!!” can even explain.
Besides production, the Wild gained a highly-experienced veteran at a time when they had just departed with guys like Eric Staal and long-time captain Mikko Koivu.
Bonino is just a guy who accepts his role on whatever team he is on and that has led him to being a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One fun fact about Bonino is —just like Bjugstad — he was brought to the Wild at the center position and he took that by storm. He led the team in faceoff percentage with 52.8%.
The clear and obvious choice is Nick Bonino.
He just brings some much to a team that needs what he brings and those being veteran experience and leadership.
At what cost do the Wild do this at? That will be between Bill Guerin and the pending UFA.
*All data and stats were found at NHL.com