VOORHEES, N.J. – Danny Briere is leaving the Flyers, but the Philadelphia area will always be his home.
The veteran forward whose contract the team will soon buy out made that much very clear Thursday, in what was a makeshift exit interview with the media that has covered him during his six-year Flyers career.
“This is my home,” Briere said. “Wherever I'm going to end up, the kids are staying here, and I'm coming back here. Yeah, this is my home. This is what we consider home now.”
The two years of Briere’s remaining contract (a $6.5 million annual cap hit) will officially come off the Flyers’ books 48 hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, but the team elected to make its plans known early. Briere was notified of the decision last week.
In a statement, general manager Paul Holmgren called Briere a “tremendous player, person and role model in all aspects,” and that for that, he said, the team thanks him.
“That's why I have so much respect for the Flyers organization,” Briere said. “Mr. Holmgren, Mr. Luukko, Mr. Snider, everybody that works in the Flyers organization. They were respectful the whole time. It wasn't an easy thing for them either, meeting with me and having to break the news. But they did it with a lot of class and I'll always be grateful for that and also my time here as a Flyer.”
Briere signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers in 2007, and largely lived up to the high expectations that gargantuan deal placed upon him. He was an All-Star in 2011. He had three 25-plus goal seasons. The 30 points he scored in the 2010 playoffs remain a franchise record.
But now, his future is entirely uncertain. The Flyers will pay him two-thirds of his remaining salary as is required by the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, approximately $3.33 million. Briere’s three sons (ages 12, 13 and 14) will remain in Haddonfield, N.J., but the 35-year-old himself has no idea where he’ll end up. He just knows he’d like to play at least two or three more years in the NHL.
The New Jersey Devils might be a perfect fit. So, too, the New York Islanders. But to be honest, Briere said, he hasn’t had a chance to think much about it yet.
“There's a lot of things that we will have to consider,” Briere said. “Obviously, the kids [are] an issue. We'll have to consider also if it's a team that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup or not, a team that might have a role for me or not. Those are all questions that at this point I don't really know, and I don't know which one's going to take over.
“Obviously, I'd prefer to be close to the kids. But we don't know if it's going to be an option or not.”
Ever since the new CBA became a reality, Briere knew there was a very good chance he could wind up as one of the two amnesty buyouts the Flyers can use by summer 2014. The way his contract was structured made it too heavy to carry after the cap goes down to $64.3 million from the $70.2 million it was in 2013.
But, he said, having the buyout become official isn’t a relief. Instead, it's "a sad day."
Briere was very much a fan favorite during his time in Philadelphia. He was known – rightly so – as a class act with media, fans and, especially, the community, serving as a board member of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. It didn't hurt that he was always exciting to watch come the postseason, earning the nickname "Mr. Playoffs."
"The last six years have been amazing,” Briere said. “I think the message [I want to send] is a huge thank you to the organization, the fans and all the teammates I've had over the years. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am here today. I'm very grateful for that.
“Thanks to everyone that had a hand in my career so far.”