Team USA won’t kick off their Olympic tournament until Wednesday, but that hasn’t stopped NHL teams from already reaching out to the agents of veteran Americans Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski. Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press writes that the unemployed former NHLers may not stay that way for long after the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea wrap up. Teams have already begun to inquire into the availability of both long-time pros for contracts through the end of the regular season. At this time of year, the concept of bringing in game-ready, experienced assets without paying inflated prices is sure to entice many squads.
Gionta, 39, and Wisniewski, 33, will only have about a day and a half following the end of the Olympics to sign in the NHL and remain eligible for the postseason, Whyno writes. This means that the agents for both players will be busy working the phones while the players are hard at work in pursuit of a gold medal. The case for each is simple. Gionta is less than a year removed from NHL action and played in all 82 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season, recording 35 points, which was good enough for sixth among Buffalo forwards. He has both the experience and ability to be a depth asset up front for a contender. Wisniewski, on the other hand, last played a full NHL season in 2014-15. A season-ending injury in the first and only game of his 2015-16 season and Carolina Hurricanes tenure derailed Wisniewski’s NHL career, but after bouncing around Russia, Switzerland, Germany, and the AHL over the past two seasons, looking especially impressive with the Deutsche Eishockey Liga’s Kassel Huskies this fall, Wisniewski has proven to still be a capable player. A strong outing at the Olympics for the offensive-minded, right-shot defenseman would make him all the more attractive addition.
While the agents do their jobs of selling their players, Gionta and Wisniewski will do theirs, leading the American team through their Olympic schedule. Both need a strong individual performance to boost their value to interested NHL teams, but will surely be more invested in the performance of the team. Despite several promising young players like Ryan Donato, Jordan Greenway, and Troy Terry and two of the best players in the Swiss NLA, Garrett Roe and Mark Arcobello, Team USA will undoubtedly look to their only two established stars to be the leaders on the ice and in the locker room.