|2008 - Brian Gionta||81||20||40||60||12||32||3||3||1||0||248||8.1|
Advanced ES stats: QUAL COMP +0.01, QUAL TEAM +0.10, +10.9 corsi, ESP/60 2.42
A strong scorer out of Boston College, Gionta had to overcome the severe handicap that is his diminutive stature to make the show. Gionta cracked the Devils roster for 30 odd-games in his rookie season (01/02) and made the leap for good the following year. In his third season as a pro, Gionta cracked the 20 goal barrier and hasn't fallen below that level since.
Aside from his height (5'7") and weight (generously listed at 175 pounds), Gionta's numbers are solid across the board. He scored 48 goals the year after the lock-out, but that had a lot to do with his career bests in SH% (16.9), shots on goal (293) and, owing to the obstruction crackdown, a boatload of PP time. He scored 24 of his 48 goals that year on the man advantage - he's scored 22 PPG in the three seasons hence.
Clearly Gionta isn't an actual 40 goal scorer (which served to propel his salary up to it's current $4M) so the little guy is in line for a pay cut. What he is, however, is a consistent 20+ goal man. He tends to generate a lot of shots on net (3.06/game) and is adept at finding soft areas in the offensive zone due to his shifty nature.
Some of the caveats that apply to Samuelsson are relevent here as well: the Devils were one of the strongest teams in the East this season and Gio spent generous portions of time with some good players at ES (most notably, Elias). He didn't, however, play with Parise a lot at ES so at least we know his numbers aren't being propped up by Zach's monster season.
I've mentioned his size, which can be detrimental in a big mans game. In addition, Gionta has put up pedestrian numbers on the PP for two straight seasons (3.40/60 and 3.75/60) even though one would imagine the man advantage being a strength after his 24 goal outburst in 05/06. And while he's never been overly sheltered, Gionta has never really faced tough competition in NJD, so he likely has to play away from the big boys to be really effective.
Gionta is a strong scorer and tricky with the puck on his stick. He's never going to run anyone over, though, and he has to win puck battles via guile and quickness rather than strength. I think his SH% is set to bounce back up to career norms next year (11.3), so whoever gets him should benefit from a bit from the rebound. He could probably be a strong second-line/first PP unit contributor for the Flames, but I think it's unlikely Sutter will take a chance on Gionta given the organizations continued commitment to building a "big, mean" team.