Daniel Briere, as reported by Pierre LeBrun, has agreed to terms to a 2-year $8 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens. With that in mind, I thought I'd weigh in with my thoughts on the deal.
I actually like the deal. Briere, though no spring chicken at 34, is still a useful winger who can play top six minutes. Despite his age, he can still produce offence, as evidenced by a 0.734 points per game over the last three years. Offensive depth became a weakness for the Habs in the playoffs this year, and adding another player who can provide secondary scoring without giving up an asset is never a bad thing.
Briere also brings with him a reputation as a clutch performer. Over his last 45 playoff games, he has scored 52 points. When faced with pressure-packed situations, as are going to be abundant under the Montreal hockey microscope, Briere has risen to the occasion and performed very well. Considering the playoff disappointment in Montreal this season, bringing in someone who is accustomed to performing under pressure can only help the team.
This signing also makes sense because of the intangibles Danny brings to the table. As a 15-year veteran, Briere has the experience and been-there-done-that mentality necessary to mentor a very young Montreal dressing room. With Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Jarred Tinordi all entering their second season, and a young core in Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, PK Subban and Carey Price, Briere's leadership and experience will ultimately help the future core of the team.
At a $4 million cap hit, Briere is a slightly overpriced second-liner. I don't really have an issue with the amount though, as this money was just freed with the Kaberle buyout. If you were to compare the salary structure of the 2013-14 Habs to the team we saw this past year, you would see an acquisition of an asset for nothing, as Briere simply replaces Kaberle's salary. Considering the supply and demand dynamics of the free agent market, getting a top-6 player at $4 million per season is also pretty reasonable.
Another aspect of the deal that benefits the team if the flexibility that this deal allows for the Habs. At two years, there is little risk involved in a deal such as this. Should Briere disappoint or get injured, the contract is easier to swallow than say a Roberto Luongo or a Scott Gomez (sorry for opening up that can of worms). If the team is also unsatisfied with Briere, he can be traded at the deadline to a contending team for an asset.
With a good amount of cap space and little risk involved in this deal, I think it was smart of Bergevin to acquire an established forward that can be relied upon for leadership experience, secondary scoring, and clutch performances. Though there are red flags, such as his small stature and injury concerns, I believe the positive aspects of this deal outweigh the negative ones. I like it, and I think Bergevin did the right thing.