If you ask any general manager in the National Hockey League, they would love to have anywhere from five to seven million dollars in salary cap flexibility heading into this summer. With the salary cap expected to go down within the next two years, teams that are tight up against the cap will be making phone calls day and night to not only create salary room now, but plan for the future. A team like the L.A. Kings may be willing to take on some of the large contracts many GM's are looking to get rid of, while a team like the New York Rangers will be one of the teams looking to move one of those large contracts.
The Philadelphia Flyers fit the mold of the latter.
The Flyers are right up against the cap. With the hopes of icing and improved squad defensivley and in goal for next season, General Manager Paul Holmgrem will look to the trade route for answers to his intense salary cap dilema. Trading two out of three contracts in defencemen Matt Carle and Randy Jones or scorer Joffrey Lupul would ideally give the Flyers enough room to address their issues in net as well as on the blue-line. However, finding a new home for center Danny Briere could do all of that in one shot.
Danny Briere is a top-end NHL talent, who had a dissapointing second season with the Flyers decimated by injuries. In his first season with the Flyers, Briere didn't exactly perform as expected. While finishing almost a point per game, Briere finished with a career worst minus-22. After a few surgeries, the most recent a minor corrective eye surgery, Briere hopes to return to the Flyers next season healthy and ready to be a contributor once more.
But do the Flyers want him? Or better yet, can we afford to keep him?
Briere is a dynamic offensive player. He performs his best on the power-play, and should the Flyers keep him, that's where he's likely to do his most damage. Realistically, the Flyers could afford to trade Briere due to the emergence of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season as a one-two punch at center, as well as rookie Claude Giroux who can also play the pivot if needed. Briere developed chemistry with Giroux towards the end of the season and in the play-offs. Giroux figures to see increased ice time next season. Behind Carter, Richards and now Giroux, there's only so much ice time for Philadelphia's top-six forwards to go around. Throw in Scott Hartnell, who plays a lot along side Carter, and Simon Gagne, who plays a lot with Mike Richards, and it becomes a numbers game. Where does Briere fit into all of this? Does he fit into it at all?
Keeping Briere would do wonders for the Flyers power-play. If Briere was kept in a third line five on five, first line powerplay type role, he could ideally still hit around 60 points. Also, having a talent like Briere would be huge should Carter or Richards go down with a lengthy injury at any point during the season. Briere also has a strong, but suddle veteran prescence to contribute. Keeping Briere around could end up doing wonders towards the development of Claude Giroux as a premiere NHL scorer. But Does Danny Briere want a limited role on this team?
Trading Briere wouldent be at all a simple task. He carries with him a cap hit at over 6 million dollars for the next few seasons, as well as a no trade clause. So not only would Philadelphia have to find a team willing to take Danny, but they would have to find one Danny would be willing to go to. The Florida Panthers are a team looking for a number one center, but lack the cap space to take on Briere. If a trade were to happen with Florida, the Flyers would have to take salary back as well. The Flyers have been interested in defencemen Jay Bouwmeester for quite some time, and also lack a starting goaltender. Could the Flyers trade Briere, Joffrey Lupul, and Matt Carle for the rights to Bouwmeester, Thomas Vokoun, and Gregory Cambell? Maybe not the exact trade, but the idea of sending Briere and another player in Lupul, Carle, or Jones in return for Bouwmeesters rights and Thomas Vokoun is intrigueing.
Whether or not Briere is tradeable is one question. The more important question is whether or not the Flyers can adress their issues this off-season and still keep Briere. Ideally, the Flyers would love to keep Briere. Briere is a premiere power-play talent, who a long with Kimmo Timmonen run the Philadelphia power play. Briere is also a top-six forward on any team, and is a point per game player or better if he's playing 20 minutes a night. Now, due to Philadelphias depth, 20 minutes a night just isn't realistic. Not reguarly, that is. But should the Flyers be able to keep Briere, they will continue to be quite possibly the most offensivley dynamic team in hockey.
Ask 10 Philly fans, more then half arent ready to give up on Mr. Briere. But if we want a realistic run at the cup, trading Briere may be our only option. Keeping Briere would ensure us a power-play in the leagues top 10 next season, and no doubt be able to pick up the offensive slack should guys like Richards or Carter get hurt or hit slumps.
But if it means upgrading our blue-line or find a starting goaltender, Danny Briere may have already played his final game in a Flyers uniform.