Six years older, $47 million richer and considerably more experienced than he was upon leaving town in 2007, Daniel Briere had a slightly different view Thursday morning when it came to unrestricted free agency. If only he had a means of peeking around the corner for the one answer he needed.
“I wish I knew which team was winning the Stanley Cup next year,” Briere said by telephone, hours before signing a two-year deal worth $8 million with the Canadiens. “It would make it a whole lot easier.”
It would, indeed.
Briere ultimately put his faith in the Canadiens, the team he grew up cheering for as a kid while growing up in Quebec and the team he shunned after helping the Sabres reach the conference finals in consecutive years. Two weeks ago, Philadelphia bought out the final two seasons of an eight-year deal worth $52 million and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Once again, Briere landed in an enviable position after a team allowed him to walk away. Because his contract was bought out, he was allowed to sign with his new team before free agency opened at noon today. Essentially, he had a head start on joining the team of his choice. He also had plenty of suitors.
“You’re trying to find a fit with a team that is excited to bring you on board, a team that feels they have a need for you,” he said. “That’s not possible everywhere.”
It will be interesting to see what happens in free agency. Boston and Dallas made a blockbuster trade Thursday. You can expect more major transactions today. The Sabres’ big move going into the free-agent signing period was … waiving Nathan Gerbe. That should inspire the fan base, no?
By the way, the Sabres were dreaming if they thought they had any real chance of bringing back Briere. Check his DOB: 10/6/77. Check their roster. He’ll be 36 years old this season, and they’re not going anywhere. It’s one thing for them to make their fans suffer, but there was no reason for him to suffer with them.
He had only $5 million remaining on his contract – $3 million for this season and $2 million the following year – when the Flyers cut him loose.
His new deal works for all involved. Money was the least of his concerns, but Montreal is paying him more than he would have made with Philly. The Habs get a proven playoff performer at a bargain price by NHL standards. He has 50 goals and 109 points in 108 career playoff games. He’s certain to help their power play.
Adding his salary he’ll make with Montreal to his buyout, it’s a $5.65 million score for each of the next two seasons.
“I am super excited to join the Canadiens,” said Briere via text. “Playing for my childhood team is a big thrill.”
Montreal fans booed him for years because he didn’t play there after leaving Buffalo. It was a compliment of the highest order. The Habs won the Northeast Division last season and appear to be trending upward under new General Manager Marc Bergevin. Briere also holds assistant GM Larry Carriere in high regard.
“That’s why they’re so interesting,” Briere said. “They’re a team on the rise. For me, that’s a team that’s interesting because of their history and the fact that I grew up cheering for them as a kid. There’s Larry, and I really like what they’ve done the last couple of years.”
He made similar comments about the Flyers and Don Luce when he signed the long-term deal with Philly. He led the Flyers to the Cup finals in 2010, the year Patrick Kane scored the series-clinching goal and his first title with the Blackhawks. Philadelphia made the playoffs in five straight years before falling to 10th after a miserable start last season.
For all the mistakes the Flyers have made in recent years, and there were many, signing Briere was not one of them. The deal worked for both sides. They came close to winning a title but fell short. They’re putting their money on Vincent Lecavalier, who signed a five-year contract worth $22.5 million.
The Canadiens were putting their money on Briere. And he’s pinning his hopes on them.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “Everybody wishes they knew how everything would go down. Unfortunately, they don’t.”