Despite the odds, Briere hopes to remain a Flyer

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Despite the odds, Briere hopes to remain a Flyer

VOORHEES, N.J. -- While the Flyers cleaned out their lockers, packed up their equipment and met with the team’s coaching staff, a small but dedicated group of fans waited in the parking lot outside Skate Zone.

Most of them were wearing or holding Danny Briere’s No. 48 sweater, hoping to shake the hand or get the autograph of the longtime fan favorite who has likely played his last game with the Flyers.

Briere, 35, is a probable victim of the NHL’s new CBA. Two years remain on his contract, and with a cap hit of $6.5 million for each, he is arguably too expensive to keep around.

The league’s salary cap goes down to $64.3 million next year, from $70.4 million this season. Right now, the Flyers have exactly $0 free under the cap; something’s got to give.

Briere, though he knows there’s a very big chance to the contrary, doesn’t want the casualty to be him.

“I hope not,” he said, at Sunday’s team break-up day. “At this point, it’s out of my control. We’ll see what happens, but I certainly hope I’ll still be here.”

Briere had a rough season in 2013. He scored just six goals (16 points) in 36 games and was a minus-13, missing the beginning of the season because of a fractured wrist and sustaining a concussion in practice earlier this spring.

Because of his impressive playoff performance last spring (eight goals and 13 points in 11 games), it’s easy to forget that Briere struggled in 2011-12, too. He went a stretch of 23 games without a goal, and was visibly frustrated as he fought to get back on track.

But that doesn’t mean the veteran forward is without value. The Flyers would lose a lot by buying out his contract or even trading him to a willing partner.

“A leader, a class act in the community, great teammate and a guy that can score goals,” Scott Hartnell said. “He’s obviously been one of our most consistent guys the past six years. Who knows what is going to happen?”

As of Sunday, Briere said he had not been approached by general manager Paul Holmgren about the possibility of waiving his no-movement clause. While so much focus has been on whether the Flyers might use one of their two amnesties on him, it’s entirely possible they could attempt to trade him to a team with cap space and a need for leadership. There are more than a few of those.

Briere didn’t say he’d refuse to be traded; he just made it very clear he’d prefer to stay in Philadelphia.

“I’ve said it all along: My family’s here, my kids are here,” Briere said. “This is my first choice, this is where I want to be. But I understand it’s a business, so we’ll see happens with that. My first goal is to be here.”

A class act and friend to the media, Briere has been candid all season long about his struggles on the ice and the possibility of this being his final season in an orange and black jersey.

He’s clearly disappointed by the way things currently stand, but having been in the NHL for 15 seasons, he recognizes the reality that the new CBA and shrinking salary cap create. That goes for the frequent questioning by reporters, too, about what it all means for his future. Briere has answered those all season long with patience and class.

“I understand it,” he said. “It’s part of the business. It’s not fun, it’s not easy. But I see it as the trade rumors. I’ve been through them before in my career. I try to approach it the same way. But I also understand it’s part of the game. With the new CBA, that’s the thing that came out with the buyouts. Unfortunately, I could be one of the guys that pays the price for it.

“I’ve also said before that there’s also so many good things that have happened over the course of my career with the CBA, because of the CBA, that it wouldn’t be right to complain about it.”

And so, he hasn’t. Despite his struggles, Briere, who serves as an alternate captain, has continued to be the consummate teammate.

Team captain Claude Giroux, of course, lived with Briere and his sons in Haddonfield, N.J., early on in his career with the Flyers. After he left, Sean Couturier moved in. Briere's loss would be a large one, especially to the Flyers' younger players, but Giroux understands the big decisions that management must make.

“That’s the tough part of hockey,” Giroux said. “You get close with some of the guys on the team, and the next year they’re gone. Obviously, it’s the business part of it, but you just need to understand it.”

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.

With AHL experience, Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel out to score again

With AHL experience, Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel out to score again

VOORHEES, N.J. — At the junior level, scoring was second nature to Nicolas Aube-Kubel, like riding a bike after you figure out the balance aspect.

Goals came in bunches and points piled up — that was his game and it came effortlessly at times, especially over his final two seasons with the QMJHL's Val-d'Or Foreurs, posting back-to-back campaigns of 38 markers and 80-plus assists.

"Usually in junior, scoring was always coming naturally to me, having points and goals," he said last week at Flyers development camp.

On the AHL ice last season, it was a whole new ballgame. For Aube-Kubel, Year 1 of pro hockey was a feeling-out process from start to finish. His prolific scoring didn't carry over much at all, as the speedy 5-foot-11 winger finished with nine goals and nine assists in 71 regular-season games for Lehigh Valley.

"Guys are better with the puck," he said of the AHL. "I've always been strong on the ice and skating-wise, too, but translating to the AHL, guys are faster, guys are quicker with the puck and less turnovers."

This was part of toeing the waters in a new surrounding. Not many prospects jump from the junior ranks to the AHL without missing a beat. Aube-Kubel, who turned 21 in May, wanted to fulfill his role and duties first before worrying about scoring. He finished the season as a plus-10, tied for fourth best on the team and tops among Phantoms with 70 or more games played.

"I've always been an offensive player," Aube-Kubel said. "From being my first year in the pros, I was trying more to focus on details and what the coach was telling me. I'm excited for next year and I'll try to step up my game, for sure, and try to do what I was doing in junior."

Following his fourth development camp, Aube-Kubel finds himself heading into an interesting second season with Lehigh Valley. A lot has changed since he was taken by the Flyers in the second round of the 2014 draft. With time, the organization has significantly built up its prospect pool and added depth at forward. 

Aube-Kubel is just fine with that.

"Since I've been drafted, there was depth," he said. "Any way I'm going to play in the NHL, I'm going to make my own spot. No one is going to give it to you. If there are more drafted players, it doesn't change anything."

He's also enjoyed working with the Phantoms' staff, led by head coach Scott Gordon. More development off the ice and a greater workload during games should help moving forward.

"I liked it. They treat you like a pro," he said. "Everyone does their own thing. If you cheat or if you're not serious about it, it's you to pay off. If you're not serious, it's going to be you that gets penalized."

If Aube-Kubel needs any comfort in the quiet start to his pro career, he can look back at his first season of junior play. He tallied just 10 goals and 27 points in 64 regular-season games. Then he jumped to 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 65 games in 2013-14 before scoring at will over his third and fourth seasons with Val-d'Or.

Maybe easing his way in is just part of his hockey DNA.

If so, keep an eye on Aube-Kubel next season.

"This year, I was maybe more focusing on having a role and trying to do what the coach was asking of me," Aube-Kubel said. "Now that it's all set, I'm going to focus on offensive play. I don't want to put pressure on myself, but last year wasn't my best offensive year. It was also my first year. I think I was trying to learn a lot of it and we'll see what happens next year."