The New York Islanders announced today that they have signed veteran forward Stephen Gionta to a one-year, two-way contract. Gionta had been playing on an AHL contract with the Islanders’ affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but will now have a shot at getting back to regular NHL minutes. New York has recalled Gionta following the finalization of his new deal.
Gionta’s relationship with the Islanders began way back in August, when the small, shifty center agreed to a professional tryout with the team. While playing a preseason game in September, Gionta broke his foot and was released from his PTO with an injury settlement. Following his recovery, Gionta inked a minor-league deal with the Tigers to get back in to playing condition. In seven games in Bridgeport, Gionta had just one goal and two assists, but did enough to show the Islanders brass watching that he was back to health and ready to contribute at the highest level.
The younger sibling of Brian Gionta, Stephen followed in his brother’s footsteps and played college hockey at Boston College. While Brian, a third-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1998, was busy leading the Devils throughout the mid-2000’s, Stephen signed with the club out of college and began working his way toward the NHL. After Brian left to sign with Montreal Canadiens in 2009, Stephen was able to fill one of the holes up front left, in part, by his departure in 2010-11. However, Gionta didn’t fully take over as a starter in New Jersey until 2013-14. Gionta scored 50 points in 270 games over parts of six seasons with the Devils, but will be remembered by fans for his dominance at the AHL level more, where he was the Lowell Devils all-time leader in games played and then the inaugural captain of the re-located Albany Devils. Capable of mentoring young players at the AHL level while also contributing in all aspects of the game at the NHL level, Gionta is a savvy signing by the Islanders.