Last night, what was already suspected around the league became official when Pierre LeBrun reported on ESPN.com that Danny Briere’s contract would be bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers.
A source told ESPN.com that Briere and Paul Holmgren met last week, at which time the Flyers’ GM informed the veteran center of the team’s decision. No bitter feelings, though, as I’m told Briere feels Holmgren handled it with class.
Briere, 35, spent the past six seasons with the Flyers after signing an eight-year deal with the orange and black in the summer of 2007. With the Flyers up against the salary cap limit of $64.3 million next season, it was a relatively easy decision to use one of their two amnesty buyouts on Briere, whose cap hit was $6.5 million over the next two years.
Now that Briere is an unrestricted free agent going into the upcoming offseason, two questions must be asked around the league:
- How many teams are going to be interested in Briere?
- How much money are teams going to be willing to give to a player in the twilight of his career?
In only 34 games this past season, Briere put up only 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists). In addition, Briere has been injury prone throughout his career, only playing a full 82-game season once in his career (2003-2004 in Buffalo).
Given this, many teams around the league may be skeptical of giving a hefty contract to what they perceive to be an injury-prone player in decline. While free agency is always unpredictable, one would have to think that Briere will have to settle for a short-term deal (1-2 years) with a significant pay-cut.
This is where the St. Louis Blues may enter the picture. As many fans know, the Blues have a desperate need for a top-line center. However, as many fans also know, first-line centers do not grow on trees.
While Briere is not necessarily a top-line center by NHL standards anymore at this point in his career, he would instantly become the Blues most offensively talented center. Captain David Backes is a superb two-way centerman and Patrik Berglund has a deadly shot, but neither can hold a candle to Briere’s offensive talent.
Therefore, a case can be made that, at the right term and price, the Blues may very well be in the market for Briere once free-agency starts.
If the Blues are interested in Briere, there are a lot of risks that must be taken into consideration.
Players in the twilight of their career are always a risk, especially when they have a history of injuries like Briere does. Blues fans are quick to point out Paul Kariya as an example of why you shouldn’t sign a player on the down-slide of their career.
However, many forget that Kariya had a positive impact during his first season (2007-2008) with the Blues, when he tied Brad Boyes for the team lead with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists).
If Briere can stay healthy, he is more than capable of posting 60-70 points, which is something the Blues would be more than interested in at the right price. Last season, only one player, Chris Stewart, was on pace to eclipse the 60-point mark (61.5 points).
While the risk would definitely be high, the reward could be even higher, especially come playoff time.
Briere is one of the most dominant playoff performers in NHL history. He ranks 67th on the all-time playoff scoring list with 109 points (50 goals 59 assists) in 108 games.
That is exactly the type of production the Blues missed in the playoffs this past season. While some Blues fans point to Brian Elliott as the reason the Blues lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the fact remains that the Blues forwards dropped the ball, missing numerous open nets and botching glorious scoring opportunities.
Briere is the type of player who performs at his highest when the lights are at their brightest. He can be a go-to performer in crunch time when your team needs a goal as well as elevate his teammates level of play. That perfectly describes what the Blues are currently missing on their roster.
While players like Paul Stastny (if he is on the market), Brad Richards (if he gets bought out) and Mike Ribeiro might all be out of the Blues price-range, Briere could fit in perfectly as a stop-gap at center for the Blues on a reasonable contract.
If Briere could give the Blues two years of solid production, that would buy Doug Armstrong more time to find a true top-flight center of the future for the Blues.
What do you think? Would you want Danny Briere on the Blues at the right price?
Let us know in the comments section below.