U.S. men's hockey captain Brian Gionta is mulling a return to the NHL upon the conclusion of the PyeongChang Games, according to his agent, Steve Bartlett, who's already had discussions with multiple teams.
The forward captained the Buffalo Sabres last season and scored 15 goals, but after they elected not to re-sign him, the 39-year-old rejected offers from other teams in order to play in South Korea.
Now, it sounds like Gionta will be available for the stretch run. Here, we determine his best NHL fits:
This would be a homecoming for Gionta, as he played in more than 500 games for the Devils after they drafted him in 1998. He'd be a good fit with New Jersey's roster that needs more balanced scoring down the depth chart, as it relies almost exclusively on Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Gionta also offers veteran experience that would be an asset for a young, up-and-coming Devils team that currently sits in an Eastern Conference wild-card spot. He helped New Jersey win the Stanley Cup in 2003, and a second stint ought to be welcomed 15 years later.
The highest-scoring team in the NHL doesn't necessarily need Gionta, but it'd still be a mutually beneficial partnership. Gionta would be provided with an opportunity to end his career with another Stanley Cup, while the Lightning would gain another depth forward in pursuit of a title. Plus, with eight forwards under 6-feet tall on Tampa Bay's roster, Gionta's diminutive stature (he stands 5-foot-7) won't be held against him and he could be a stylistic match for the team. If he gets an offer from Steve Yzerman, it may be too good to pass up.
Boston would represent a homecoming in a different way than New Jersey. Gionta starred for Boston College before heading to the NHL, and the Bruins are once again in contention for the Stanley Cup. Gionta has never played outside of the Eastern Conference and it's unlikely he'll want to venture very far away from his family in Buffalo at this stage of his career. He wouldn't be asked to do too much in Boston's offense and offers a familiarity with its division rivals that few other free agents possess.