By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Perhaps the most unlikely move the Bruins made in 2018 was the signing of veteran free agent Brian Gionta.
The 39-year-old Gionta, fresh off captaining Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, came to the B’s after putting 16 shots on goal but finishing with zero points in five games for Team USA. Although the move was a Hail Mary play in search of relatively cost-free offensive depth that departed with Frank Vatrano’s trade to Florida, Gionta actually regained some of his offensive spark, with two goals and six points in his first five games with Boston.
“I think it’s pretty unique how things played out,” Gionta said of his unusual season. “I was excited for the opportunity on both fronts. So, obviously I had a great year, I was excited about how things went, and what I was able to do.”
The 5-foot-7 Gionta even saw time on the Boston top six.
But by then, Gionta had cooled beyond belief, finishing his regular-season run with just one assist and 33 shots on goal in his final 15 games of the season. Gionta even drew in for a postseason game, but it was one to forget, as Gionta skated in under 12 minutes of action and contributed zero shots on goal to go with one hit and one blocked shot.
In fact, the only noteworthy item from Gionta’s lone playoff appearance was the highlight (or lowlight, depending on your allegiance) that confirmed that Gionta was unable to prevent Dan Girardi from getting to the front of the Boston net en route to the overtime goal scored in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 of the club’s second-round failure against the Lightning.
Gionta promptly returned to the press box as a healthy scratch the following game, and that was the last the B’s saw of him.
And as one of the club’s seven pending unrestricted free agents, Gionta remains in limbo. That may be for he best, though, as the veteran of 1,026 NHL games is unsure what his future playing days may entail. Or if they even exist.
“We’ll see,” Gionta, who won a Stanley Cup in 2003, said when asked if he had another year of hockey left in the tank. “We’ll reassess things, get back with the family and kind of go over some things, but we’ll see where things stand.”
Gionta also said that the Bruins had ‘high expectations’ and maintains the belief that they have all the pieces needed to win.
Unfortunately for Gionta, though, all signs would point towards the Bruins moving on from Gionta as an NHLer.
With prospects out the wazoo (and more expected to compete for NHL spots next fall), and with the game getting younger and faster by the day, it’s hard to find a legitimate spot for Gionta to contribute. The Bruins themselves may even think that they have better options when it comes to a potential spot as the 13th or 14th forward on next year’s team, too.
But given some of Boston’s apparent New Jersey connections, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Gionta get involved with the Bruins in some sort of capacity if he chooses to hang ’em up, be it in player development (like Jamie Langenbrunner) or perhaps as an extra help to their coaching staff and front office (like former late-season addition Jay Pandolfo did after retiring from hockey in 2013). After all, they clearly valued what he brought to their locker room this past season.
Just likely not enough to find themselves back in a situation that requires him playing in another critical game.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.