The skilled but undersized forward signed an US$52-million, eight-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, immediately becoming the top player signed on the first day of the NHL’s free agency period and leaving the Buffalo Sabres without one of their co-captains.
The Flyers outbid numerous teams that were interested in Briere, the former Sabres co-captain, who finished 10th in the league with 95 points (32-63) last season. Buffalo could also lose co-captain Chris Drury, who also entered free agency.
“Danny had many offers and lots of interest out there,” said his agent Pat Brisson. “He made sure to carefully look at his options. He is thrilled with the results.”
The Flyers continue to make the biggest splash this off-season with general manager Paul Holmgren attempting to retool what had been an aging and slow team that finished with a league-low 22 wins last season.
The Flyers already bolstered their lineup two weeks ago when they acquired defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell in a trade with the Nashville Predators. Philadelphia then signed both to six-year deals: Timonen for $37.8 million and Hartnell for $25.2 million.
Briere will be reunited with friend and former teammate, goaltender Martin Biron, who was traded to Philadelphia by Buffalo in February and has since claimed the No. 1 job.
Briere broke off talks with the Sabres on Friday, unhappy after Buffalo offered him a $25-million, five-year contract. The offer averaged out to the $5-million, one-year contract Briere was awarded in arbitration last summer, leaving the player confident he could get more on the open market.
The new deal is a big step up for Briere, who earlier in his career was knocked for his slight five-foot-nine, 177-pound frame, and at one point placed on waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes.
A nine-year veteran, Briere emerged as a star shortly after Buffalo acquired him in a deal with Phoenix in March 2003. He has scored 92 goals and 138 assists for 230 points in 225 games with the Sabres, a big improvement after 70 goals and 76 assist for 146 points in 258 games with the Coyotes.
He appeared in his first career all-star game this season and earned the game’s MVP honours. He also produced in the clutch, scoring 10 game-winners over the past two seasons.