Monday, June 25, 2007

Free Agency Matchmaker: Daniel Briere

The start of free agency (July 1) is almost upon us, and to help shed some light on the subject, BMR brings you the third in a series of profiles chronicling this summer's free agent class. Next up is Buffalo's Daniel Briere.

In sports, many times we see teams give huge contracts to players coming off one whale of a season during the final year of a contract. It happens time and time again, as GMs make short sighted deals with hot free agents that may or may not pan out in the long run. Buffalo's Daniel Briere might be the next beneficiary of this type of spending. That's not to say Briere wasn't a good player prior to this season, but his game took a monster leap in the final year of his contract with Buffalo.

It's awkward fan photo time!

Briere had a career year in 06-07, going 32-63-95 in 81 games. The Sabres had the league's best offense, and Briere was the biggest reason for it, leading the team in points and power play points. This guy was friggin' dynamite on the ice.

A year ago, Briere was on pace to put up similar numbers, but was sidelined with abdominal surgery for 24 games. Nonetheless, he still managed to put up 58 points in 48 games, and was on pace for a 100 point season.

Prior to the lockout, his career high in points was 65, and at only 5'10" Briere got pushed around a lot in the 'old' NHL. That's not the case anymore. His speed and size have helped make Briere successful in the 'new' NHL, and he is a prime example for the type of player that the rule changes have benefited the most.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match...
(in no particular order)
  • Buffalo Sabres: If you've been following the Briere/Drury situation up in Buffalo at all, you know that the Sabres will more than likely not be able to afford both of them. While Drury is the heart and soul of the team, Briere is a dynamic offensive player in his prime. The Sabres have a very tough decision ahead of them, pertaining to which player they intend to keep, if not both. They've got $28 million locked up for next season and a host of other free agents including Thomas Vanek, Teppo Numminen and Dainius Zubrus. Briere's price tag looks to be somewhere between $6.5 and $7.5 million, a hefty sum for the Sabres to try and come up with. The Toronto Sun is reporting that the Sabres still have yet to make an offer to both Drury and Briere. Yikes.
  • Philadelphia Flyers: The word around the league is that the Flyers are looking to make a big splash this off season via free agency, and Briere is one of the players that they have their sights set on. Money is going to be awfully tight in Philly, but if they cap goes high enough, they should have enough money to sign a big name free agent. Outside of that, the main drawback that Philly faces is the stigma of having the league's worst record this past season. They're going to have their work cut out for them in convincing players that they are going to be competitive next season. To their credit, acquiring Timonen, Hartnell and Biron has gone a long way towards accomplishing that.
  • Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are a team that has come up in each of these Matchmaker articles, and that's because I'm convinced that they're going to make a big splash in July. The team is keeping quiet, but don't let that fool you. As I've said before, they have the young talent, the money and a half decent 06/07 record to sell to free agents. Watch out.
  • Montreal Canadiens: Briere grew up near Montreal, and the hometown team always has a shot at signing the hometown guy. The Habs are expected to make an offer to Briere, but it might not be the biggest one on the table. They have $30 mil committed to next season, and a bunch of free agents that they need to re-sign. The biggest name of the bunch is defense man Sheldon Souray, who is one of the top defenders on the market this July.
If you put a gun to my head and made me choose a destination for Briere: This is probably the toughest decision that I've had to make yet. I think the Sabres and Flyers are the two leading candidates in this race.

From all indications, Philly wants nothing more than to make a splash in the free agent market, even if that only means signing one big name. On the other side of things, it would be a disaster for Buffalo if they lost both Drury and Briere to free agency. That's what decides it for me. Darcy Regier is a smart man, and realizes that he needs to re-sign one of them. My guess is, if he had to choose only one of them, it would certainly be the offensive magician, Briere.

That's my final answer. I think Briere will stay in Buffalo. Take it for what it's worth.

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