Jan 30, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Stephen Gionta (11) watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Devils defeated the Stars 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Should Stephen Gionta Return Next Season?

Jan 9, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Stephen Gionta (11) skates with the puck while being defended by Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar (55) during the third period at the Prudential Center. The Devils defeated the Stars 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Gionta will be an unrestricted free agent once this season is all said and done. Gionta is in the last year of his 2-year, $1.125 million contract. For this season only, Gionta has a two-way deal in his contract but also receives a $75,000 raise with the same cap hit.

Through 46 games this season, Gionta has 3 goals and 5 assists with a -8 rating. It is clearly a down year for him as last season, he tallied 4 goals and 10 assists in 48 games.

That can also be explained by the fact that he had consistent playing time in a lockout-shortened season but he has still seen a majority of the games this season as well.

Gionta is a part of the CBGB line and always shows great chemistry with whatever line he is a part of, most notably with Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier.

Stephen Gionta does get a fair amount of shots on net as he is totaling 70 shots on goal but only sports a 4.3 shot percentage. His 70 shots stand at 12th on the team with Patrik Elias 7 shots ahead of him and Mark Fayne 12 shots behind him.

Feb 8, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) moves the puck into the offensive zone past New Jersey Devils right wing Stephen Gionta (11) during the first period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Gionta will be turning 31 right around opening day next season and it is tough to tell what the Devils would have to pay him to have him return. Surely, the price tag wouldn’t be too high as he is only making $600,000 this year but that’s $100,000 more than what he was making in the first year of his last contract in 2010-11.

That year he played in 12 games with New Jersey and had 0 points but had great numbers in Albany. Gionta played in 54 games and had 10 goals with 20 assists.

A player shouldn’t solely be judged by his statistical output (like the case with Cam Janssen) but a natural RW like Mike Sislo could be knocking on the door. Gionta only has 8 goals and 15 assists in 107 NHL games in his career. There are also plenty of scorers in Albany, such as Reid Boucher and Joe Whitney, that could help out an offensively crippled New Jersey Devils.

That’s not saying that Boucher and Whitney will be definite successes (if they ever get ample time to prove it, that is) but it is something to think about when you consider bringing Gionta back when you can get more production for less money.

Joe Whitney currently has a $5,000 greater cap hit than Gionta, but Whitney is signed for another season and is also locked into a two-way contract if they want to keep him in Albany.

Gionta may not want a two-way contract. Remember, Gionta did not have a two-way stipulation last season. This season is the only season in his two-year contract that included it.

I think the Devils should bring back Stephen Gionta but only if he agrees to a 2-way contract and I probably wouldn’t give him more than 1 year.

The Devils have to find scoring and cutting out Gionta might be the best way to open up a roster spot for either outside help or help within the system. At a near 31 years old, Gionta has been far from what he was hoped to be, and time may be running out for the right winger.

What do you think Devils Army? Should Stephen Gionta return next season?

Should Stephen Gionta Return Next Season?

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Stats and contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com and the New Jersey Devils Official Website.

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