Brian Gionta pondering future while getting taste of coaching life

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Brian Gionta finds himself in the same situation that he was in a year ago: unsigned and unsure about his hockey playing future.

Last summer, however, all signs pointed to him being captain of the U.S. Olympic hockey team for the Pyeongchang Games. This summer that option is gone and the 39-year-old Gionta is now dipping his toes into the coaching waters.

Gionta and the Buffalo Sabres kept the lines of communication open since the two sides parted in 2017. That led to an invite to help out at their development camp last month. He took them up on the opportunity as he ponders his future.

“As I’m sitting here trying to contemplate where to go with my career and whether it’s at the end or not, it was good for me to get my foot in there and see what that was all about,” Gionta told NHL Tonight on Wednesday.

Following the Olympics in February, Gionta signed pro-rated $700,000 contract with the Boston Bruins for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. In 20 regular season games he scored two goals and recorded seven points while averaging a little over 13 minutes a night. The playoffs were a different story as he watched the majority of the team’s run in the press box, only suiting up for one game.

An unrestricted free agent once again, the writing may be on the wall for Gionta’s NHL career, one that includes 1,026 games played, 291 goals scored and a Stanley Cup ring.

“I had a unique year last year with the Olympics and signing with Boston late. Had a ton of fun, was able to be around my family a lot last year,” he said.

“The main focus right now is my family, my kids and trying to figure out what’s best for everyone involved. I’ve had a great run, playing a long time in the NHL, and if this is the end, it’s the end.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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