For the Washington Capitals, the past six postseasons have not been kind, especially for the team's offensive stars.
Year after year, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green have all taken turns coming up empty during clutch situations, so maybe now it's time for George McPhee to turn his attention toward bringing in guys who thrive under pressure.
That's where a seasoned veteran like Danny Briere could come in.
Briere had just two years and $5 million remaining on his deal, but it was his $6.5 million cap hit, not his salary, that forced the separation. The buyout wipes that hit off Philly’s cap, although the Flyers still have to pay Briere 66 percent of his remaining money owed ($3.3 million) over the next four years.
The buyout option was negotiated into the new CBA as a tool to help teams adjust to next year’s salary cap, which is decreasing from $70.2 million to $64.3 million. But really, it’s just an escape clause to get a team out from under a bad contract.
So, with Briere set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent, the Capitals should be, at the very least, interested in the prospect of signing the diminutive pivot for a couple of reasons.
First of all, though Briere has generally been an effective scorer during the regular season—culminating with a 95-point effort for Buffalo in 2006-07—he's been even more dynamic come playoff time. He also has a knack for scoring big goals, as the Caps can attest to from their seven-game heartbreaker against the Flyers in 2008.
In addition, Briere should not be an overly expensive replacement for Mike Ribeiro, who will undoubtedly command more money and years than the 35-year-old. It also doesn't hurt that Briere's family is based outside of Philadelphia, so the move to D.C. might not require him to completely uproot his three children—particularly if his new contract is for two seasons or less.
But what's most intriguing about Briere for a team like the Capitals is the leadership and experience he brings to the table. He's been a part of four teams that have made it to at least the conference final and was arguably the best offensive player on the Flyers squad that came within one game of winning a Stanley Cup in 2010, putting up 30 points in 23 games to lead all players in postseason scoring.
Now, at 35, Briere is coming off his worst season since becoming a full-time NHL forward, but that by no means should be taken as an indication that he can't be a valuable secondary scorer. In fact, I would argue that he makes more sense for the Capitals' style of play than Ribeiro, especially on the power play.
Briere has made a name for himself in this league by sneakily finding ways to get open on the back door, which would make him an ideal addition to the Caps' first unit.
In light of the fact that this year's crop of free agents is relatively shallow, Briere could manage to attract up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5 million to $4 million a season for two or three years, but whether he gets that with a team as promising as the Caps seems unlikely.
It may be a gamble to some degree, but Briere's winning pedigree, leadership and ability to score in clutch situations should make him an attractive free-agency target for the Caps.
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