The Montreal Canadiens biggest splash in the free agency market last season was to sign Daniel Briere to a two year contract for four million dollars per season. Briere became a free agent when he was bought out by the final two years of a lucrative eight year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Briere was a bit of an odd choice for the Canadiens to sign, as they were already full of small, speedy forwards, and his natural position of center was filled on the Habs depth chart. Predictably, Briere did not fit in well with the Habs, playing on the wing most of the season, and scoring just 25 points in 69 games and sometimes finding himself as a healthy scratch.
In the postseason, Briere would get to play center, but was used on the fourth line behind David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. It was a strange use of a small, soft, veteran forward who made a name for himself as a scorer with silky smooth hands. However, it was his preference to play in the middle, and he proved all season to be undeserving of more ice time than the top three centers. He played better in the postseason, scoring 7 points in 16 games, but was once again invisible at times, and had lost the trust of his coach.
Unfortunately for Briere, age is getting the best of him, as the 36 year old just isn’t the same player he was when he scored 95 points with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07.
With one year remaining on his contract, and his 37th birthday coming shortly after the puck drops on next season, there is still no fit for the aging Briere with the Canadiens. The two year deal was supposed to be a refreshing homecoming for the native of Gatineau, Quebec, but has been closer to a disaster.
A year older, next season does not look promising, especially with the Canadiens returning all of the aforementioned centers, and possibly moving Alex Galchenyukk to the middle as well. So what will become of Briere?
The Habs have three options to deal with their veteran forward. They can either buy him out during the buyout window which begins tomorrow, they can try to find a trade partner, or they can keep him on the roster for another season. Trading him may prove difficult, as there would not be much of a market for a struggling soon to be 37 year old, and Briere received a no movement clause with his two year deal.
The Canadiens have already wisely used both of their compliance buyouts on Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle, so cutting ties with Briere would cost them $1,333,333 over the next two seasons. This would save the team $2,666,667 against this upcoming season, but then add the $1,333,333 in 2015-16.
So it is up to Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to decide, is a 37 year old Briere worth keeping around when there wasn’t a spot for him as a 36 year old? If it were up to me, I would whatever it took to get rid of the small, aging center. He wants to play center, but is not god enough to play on the top three lines, and is an awful fit as a fourth liner.
The Canadiens should try to deal Briere for any kind of a return over the next two weeks. If nothing materializes, I would use a buyout on Briere before the window closes on June 30th.