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Trading Danny Briere? Sabres could be potential trade partner

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When Danny Briere signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent in the summer of 2007, we all assumed that he would be here until the end of his eight-year, $52 million contract.

Those terms were massive at the time and the Flyers were laughed at around the league for handing out such an albatross contract. They'd be paying Briere $6.5 million against the cap at age 37. Ha, idiots.

But as Briere prepares to enter Year 6 of that contract, the chance the Flyers could trade Briere suddenly seems less far-fetched than it did six years ago or even two years ago. Let's speculate. (Seriously, emphasis on speculate. There's no indication besides what appears to be common sense that the Flyers are talking about a Briere trade.)

Before a Danny Briere trade actually happens, several questions have to be asked and answered:

  • Is there a willing trade partner out there?
  • Is it worth trading him, given what the Flyers would lose and what they could potentially gain?
  • Would Briere waive his no-trade clause?

To the first point, Sabres blog Die By The Blade asked this exact question today.

With the contract situation five years in the past, it makes sense to ask this question. Would the Buffalo Sabres actually bring back Daniel Briere into the fold?

Since leaving Buffalo, Briere has played 330 games and put up 267 points in five years. His playoff statistics are even more impressive with 72 points in 68 games. His 37 goals over five years during the playoffs are more than the Sabres have had as a team in the playoffs since he has left.

Briere's a good player and a team like Buffalo in need of some scoring punch might be interested in acquiring him. Regardless, the league knows he's a good player. The problem with a potential trade has always been his contract. Why would a team take that thing?

But that's just it: Looking at the front-loaded structure of Briere's deal, there's really not all that much money left to be paid to him, at least relatively speaking. He's received $40 million of the $52 million total he'll earn in these eight seasons.

Year Salary Cap Hit Age
2007-08 $10,000,000 $6,500,000 30
2008-09 $8,000,000 $6,500,000 31
2009-10 $8,000,000 $6,500,000 32
2010-11 $7,000,000 $6,500,000 33
2011-12 $7,000,000 $6,500,000 34
2012-13 $7,000,000 $6,500,000 35
2013-14 $3,000,000 $6,500,000 36
2014-15 $2,000,000 $6,500,000 37

When looking at this deal from the Flyers perspective, all we think about is the cap hit. After all, salary isn't much of a big deal to this team. That's why they're able to send offer sheets that pay guys $27 million over the course of 11 months. The number that matters most to the Flyers is the cap hit, because its really the only number that truly limits how much they have to spend. Being the rich kid is fun, you guys.

For many teams, though, the cap isn't the limiting number. It's the salary -- the actual money due to the player each season. There are any number of sub-cap teams out there that could be interested in a guy like Briere given this -- Carolina immediately comes to mind given their clear desire to spend money this offseason in improving their team -- but since Die By The Blade originally broached this subject, let's focus on the Sabres.

The Sabres are indeed a cap team under new owner Terry Pegula, but they could easily fit Briere's $6.5 million cap hit in on their roster even with two RFA's to pay this summer. It's only more pleasant that most of the actual money due to Briere has already been paid. Just one $7 million season and $12 million in total due to Briere over the next three years? Seems pretty damn reasonable. Could even be considered a bargain since the cap hit likely won't limit them much if at all.

So, the answer is yes: After five years of thinking a team would never take Briere in a trade, other teams could definitely be interested in acquiring Danny Briere.

Yet the biggest question for the Flyers is likely No. 2 on our list here: Is it worth it to trade him?

Again, the Flyers will spend to the cap -- over the cap if you're considering Chris Pronger's LTIR status in its truest sense -- over the next three years of Briere's deal. We can't look at him as a $3 million player in 2013-14. He's still a $6.5 million player to us over the next three years. And is Briere going to be worth that money for the next three years?

Well, that's pretty dependent on how well he bounces back after an awful 2011-12 season. Briere had his worst full season as a Flyer, scoring just 16 goals and 49 points in 70 games. He had scored at least 26 goals -- and twice over 30 goals -- in every other non-injury plagued season as a Flyer before last year.

What's encouraging is that Briere's shooting percentage last season was also an anomaly -- 9.2 percent versus his career average of 14.7 percent. We should expect that number to come back up in a big way this season, and it's possible that Briere could return to 30 goal form. If that's the case, the Flyers would have to get a nice return back for Briere to make it worth a trade. Losing 30 goals would ... you know, hurt.

Then again, there's no guarantee Briere ever scored 30 goals again. A bounce back would be more of a certainty if he were younger, but he's 34 and will be 35 the next time he plays a meaningful NHL game.

We all know the Flyers strength is up front and that they have holes on defense. Those holes will only get bigger once Kimmo Timonen retires, potentially as soon as next summer. Whether they have an in-house solution for this upcoming season or not, they're going to need to find a way to replace Kimmo's minutes.

Buffalo is a fantastic trade option in that sense. Briere clearly has a history there and the fans still have a soft spot for him, and at the same time, there's a serious glut of defensemen on Lindy Ruff's roster.

Any and all trade discussions involving Buffalo defensemen have to begin with 22-year-old future No. 1 defenseman Tyler Myers. He's locked up through 2019 but by shedding Briere, the Flyers would actually save money against the cap with Myers' $5.5 million cap hit. Myers could find a nice home on the Flyers top pairing for the next seven years.

Of course, I'm not sure if that's a deal Buffalo would be interested in -- Briere's clearly on the downside of his career and Myers is a future No. 1 -- but Sabres fans over at Die By The Blade do seem excited about the possibility of getting Briere back in their mix as both a goal scorer and a mentor to their younger forwards. Maybe they could even get something out of Ville Leino if he could return to Briere's wing, which obviously ups No. 48's value to them.

Perhaps it's a deal that makes sense for both sides, but to make this even, the Flyers would certainly have to throw in another piece or two. Myers is just too young and too good.

So let's continue down the list, then: Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera or Jordan Leopold all seem like solid options. A quick glance at these three (numbers in parentheses are where they rank on the team, unless otherwise noted):

Player Age GP ES TOI/G PP TOI/G Corsi Rel QoC Cap Hit (Yrs Left)
Robyn Regehr 32 76 15:54 (7) -- 1.153 (1) $4.02 million (1)
Jordan Leopold 31 79 18:02 (2) 1:59 (3) 0.203 (6) $3 million (1)
Andrej Sekera 26 69 17:06 (4) 0:51 (4) 0.878 (2) $2.75 million (3)

Sekera's a fantastic puck mover but isn't too physical. Regehr's a big shutdown guy who can go up against top competition but isn't as great with the puck. Leopold's strength is definitely his mobility and his puck skills as well, but he hasn't been put up against the other team's top competition.

All things considered, Sekera looks like a fantastic second choice if the Sabres were to ask too much for Tyler Myers -- which we'd have to assume they would. Sekera can play top-4 minutes, can play on the power play, is still a young player and is locked up at a reasonable number for the next several seasons.

He's not a No. 1 guy but he'd definitely be a nice asset to have on the Flyers' blueline.

Timonen - Coburn
Grossmann - Sekera
Meszaros - Schenn

... and $3.75 million in extra cap space to plug up the lost offense?

Would it be worth giving up 30 goals for Sekera? Perhaps not, but again, there's no guarantee Briere ever returns to that form. I'd give up a declining one-way forward in Briere for an immediate solution to any problems the Flyers' defense might face, especially considering the Flyers' strength at the center position.

The Flyers would have over $7 million in space (without even considering Chris Pronger on LTIR) and a forward unit that looks like this. Goal totals from last year in parentheses:

Voracek (18) - Giroux (28) - Hartnell (37)
Simmonds (28) - Schenn (12) - Read (24)
Fedotenko (9) - Couturier (13) - ??/Talbot (19)
Wellwood (5) - Talbot/?? - Rinaldo (2!)

Plenty of guys left on the market to fill that hole. Hey, they'd even have plenty of space for Shane Doan. (lol see what i did there?)

And that brings us to the final question: Would Briere waive his no-trade clause to go to Buffalo? I'd have to imagine it's one of the few places he'd rather be than Philadelphia. He always talks fondly of the city in which he realized his NHL potential, and he still has several close friends on the roster. It's also much closer to family in Quebec.

All things considered, the Flyers and Sabres could be phenomenal trade partners and Danny Briere could be right at the center of a deal. Buffalo gets a beloved hero back in town with hopes of big-time offense, while the Flyers shed some salary while also shoring up the defense with any number of strong options. Would you pull the trigger?