As teased (or threatened, depending on your point of view) by Arthur Staple last week, veteran forward Stephen Gionta has indeed agreed to a professional tryout contract with the Islanders and will attend training camp with them.
#Isles make Stephen Gionta PTO official. He's in camp to make things more competitive -- one more guy who works hard can't hurt.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 12, 2016
Gionta, who, again, is 32 and 5-foot-7, has played NHL 270 games in six years with the New Jersey Devils organization and has 50 career points (15 goals, 35 assists). He had all of 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 82 games last season, which is exactly half of what Nikolay Kulemin (22 points in 81 games) had for the Islanders.
Trivia Break! Against which NHL team did Gionta score his only goal last season? The answer below might shock you.
According to his agent in an article for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Gionta had other offers to consider for this season. He chose the Islanders because he sees them as his best shot at an NHL job, a scathing indictment of the current state of the Islanders roster if I’ve ever heard one.
That being said, agent Steve Bartlett doesn’t sound like a fan of young, up-and-coming NHL talent anyway, so maybe he’s not the best person to ask. Yikes.
"The (salary) cap is squeezing the middle class out," said Steve Bartlett, Gionta's agent and the president of Pittsford-based Sports Consulting Group. "Teams would rather have guys on two-ways (contracts) fill those spots and move them up and down.
"But a few years down the road, unless they become the stars, they'll be the ones getting squeezed out."
Nothing personal against him, but I don’t have much of a strong opinion on Gionta because he’s not the type of player one typically has strong opinions about. A PTO is a try out, not an NHL contract. If he’s here for training camp and signs a deal to play in Bridgeport, fine. In the event he signs a contract, the “best case scenario” is he becomes the oft-scratched extra forward who plays only when someone gets hurt (a la Steve Bernier last season).
But even that might be too much. If he ends up claiming a spot from someone who isn’t 32 or five-foot-seven or who is more like likely to pot more than a lone goal and a handful of assists over the course of a full schedule, it’s gonna be another long, frustrating season.
Unless you’re an agent trying to get a 32-year-old client a job. Then it’s all good.
Here’s the answer to our trivia question. A neat goal, actually. The guy deserves credit for not quitting on the play, at least.