By Allan Muir
After months of speculation, the Flyers just made it official: they're buying out the final years of Danny Briere's contract.
“I met with Danny last week and informed him of our decision to use a compliance buyout on his contract," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a prepared statement released early this afternoon. "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.”
Briere had just two years and $5 million remaining on his deal, but it was his $6.5 million cap hit, not his salary, that forced the separation. The buyout wipes that hit off Philly's cap, although the Flyers still have to pay Briere 66 percent of his remaining money owed ($3.3 million) over the next four years.
The buyout option was negotiated into the new CBA as a tool to help teams adjust to next year's salary cap, which is decreasing from $70.2 million to $64.3 million. But really, it's just an escape clause to get a team out from under a bad contract.
And at a $6.5 million hit, Briere's was one of the worst. The 35-year-old is coming off a brutal season during which he scored just six goals and 16 points in 34 games. It didn't help that coach Peter Laviolette used him mostly on the wing, where he's less effective, but injuries and age didn't advance his cause, either.
Good guy or not, getting out from under that contract has long made sense for the Flyers. But it didn't become a necessity until the team agreed to a four-year, $21 million deal with defenseman Mark Streit earlier this week.
Still, this isn't the end of Briere ... and least, not likely. There's still a bit of tread on his tires, and just three years removed from his leading the playoffs in scoring in 2010, there's a good chance a team will see him as a value-add at a reduced salary. The catch is that he wants to stay on the East Coast to be near his three young sons. The Devils would be the ideal fit, but the Islanders and Canadiens might work as well -- even though the Habs are overloaded with smaller players up front, his leadership and room presence make him a viable option. Now the question is, will the Flyers use their second buyout option on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov?