TORONTO — Seventeen years after departing Boston College, where he was among the most electrifying offensive performers in Eagles history, Brian Gionta could be headed back to Boston — this time as a Bruin.
With the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. on Monday, a steady stream of Gionta rumors on Saturday afternoon had a number of Eastern-based clubs, including the Bruins, pondering whether to sign the 39-year-old for their Stanley Cup push.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did not directly address Gionta’s situation in a late-afternoon media briefing, but he acknowledged potential interest in some free agents returning from the Games.
“Yeah, we have had discussions with people prior to [the Olympics],” he said. “You know, to see what they may or may not do, based on what our needs are. So we have a couple of [players identified] . . . it is a short window to try to turn this around — we are having those discussions, and I will continue to do so. If there is an area we can continue to supplement our group, we will do that.”
A right winger with a righthanded shot, Gionta returned only days ago from South Korea, where he captained the US men’s Olympic team, which failed to make the medal stand. A veteran of 1,006 NHL games (and 588 points), Gionta spent seven seasons with the Devils, where he was a teammate of Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, following his graduation from The Heights.
The 5-foot-7-inch Gionta grew up around Rochester, N.Y., and didn’t receive any NHL offers this season after playing all 82 games, and delivering a line of 15-20—35, last season with the Sabres. Absent a job here, he jumped at the offer to wear the captain’s “C” for the Yanks in PyeongChang.
Lacking some of his trademark zip these days, Gionta nonetheless could be a candidate to provide a boost to Boston’s second line, currently comprised of David Krejci and wingers Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner. That trio had only one goal through game No. 3 of a five-game trip, Krejci finally knocking one home (only his 11th this season) for the winner Tuesday night in Edmonton. The goal came after coach Bruce Cassidy opted to change lines, moving David Backes and Danton Heinen to Krejci’s wings.
Along with the Bruins, both the Devils and Maple Leafs, who face the Bruins here Saturday night, have been rumored to be kicking the tires on Gionta.
Gionta came to BC in the fall of 1997 and he became an instant sensation on Jerry York’s club, delivering 62 points in 40 games. He added another 170 points over the next three seasons prior to joining the Devils, who selected with pick No. 82 in the 1998 draft.
In his final game for the Eagles, Gionta helped BC cop the NCAA championship, a 3-2 OT win over North Dakota in Albany.