Flyers buy out Danny Briere’s contract; what’s next for NHL vet?

The Flyers finally confirmed the worst kept secret in Philadelphia – OK, second worst, behind Pat’s over Geno’s – that Danny Briere was being bought out of the last two years of his contract.

As Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported this week:

The move will shave $6.5 million off the Flyers' salary cap. Philadelphia had one of the NHL's most expensive payrolls last season and has been forced into a position to shed salary in order to get under next season's cap, which will drop from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.

Under NHL rules, teams have the option of two amnesty buyouts to terminate contracts before the start of the 2014-15 season. The Flyers are still on the hook to pay Briere two-thirds -- about $3.3 million -- of the $5 million the player was owed as part of the eight-year, $52 million contract he signed in free agency on July 1, 2007.

Essentially, the move comes down to two factors: The Flyers’ needs and the Flyers’ need for a shakeup.

Tenth-place in the Eastern Conference, after a second round playoff run in 2012, necessitated that Paul Holmgren shake up the roster. Jettisoning a well-regarded veteran – albeit one with declining numbers and injury issues – does just that. (See: Gagne, Simon, previously.)

But in inking Mark Streit, the Flyers were saying that defensive needs trump those of a high-priced top six forward. You can’t argue with that logic. OK, you can argue with four years and $21 million for a 35-year-old, but that’s another column.

Here’s Holmgren on Briere:

“I met with Danny last week and informed him of our decision to use a compliance buy out on his contract. This was a very difficult decision for us to make as Danny has been a very good player for us over the past six years. Danny came to our organization as a free agent in July of 2007 and has been a tremendous player, person and role model in all aspects and for that we thank him. We wish him continued success and best wishes in any future endeavors.”

What’s next for Briere?

At 35, he’s going to get an extreme pay cut, but he might be the best unrestricted free-agent forward available this summer – provided this season was an anomaly and not his game going off a cliff.

Would a return to Phoenix make sense? He spent parts of six seasons there, and they could use his veteran offense, having missed that element

Would a reunion with Buffalo be out of the question? And if so, would he have to go back to “Daniel”?

How about Montreal, whom he spurned for the Flyers’ front-loaded deal?

Know this about Briere: He has 109 points in 108 playoff games. When Joel Ward gets a contract for his postseason performance, you know Briere will.

It’ll be interesting to see where he’s headed, just as it’s sad to see him leave the Flyers.

Briere’s a product of the “24/7” era in the NHL, meaning that we know more about his personal life – painful divorce, young children to whom he’s dedicated – then we may have when he was breaking into the league. It’s a hockey move, first and foremost; but anyone that’s seen Briere and his kids can’t help but wonder how this all impacts them as well. That's not exactly how we've always approached these things.

He’s achieved beloved player status in Philly, that’s for sure. From Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey:

But despite his declining offense, his defensive struggles and his high cap hit, Briere still became beloved in Philadelphia during his time here. I absolutely hated Danny Briere when he played for the Sabres -- thought he was a pesky, cheap little punk -- but in Philly he quickly became one of those guys you learn to love when he's on your side. He scored countless huge goals for the Flyers in his six years here and as somebody who's had the privilege of meeting him, can attest that he's just a very good dude.

Fare thee well, Mr. Briere.

What’s next for the Flyers?

Ilya Bryzgalov’s buyout, eventually, but maybe not this season. Still, the Flyers are $1.485 million over cap in 2013-14 according to CapGeek.

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