Here’s what the Canadiens got by signing Daniel Briere. They picked up a centre in the September of his NHL years for two years. At the same time, they bought their farm system two years development time without giving up an asset.
The Canadiens have three potential front line centremen in their pipeline. Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival and Louis Leblanc, if he can rediscover his game. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is very aware of the dangers connected with rushing players before their time. Galchenyuk will continue his NHL apprenticeship on the wing next season, with the goal of eventually slotting him at centre. Lars Eller went through the same process. At the same time the Canadiens are waiting for Michael Bournival to have a breakthrough season and who knows where Louis Leblanc is going to end up after last year’s struggles. Each is more than a year away from regular NHL duty.
So, enter Daniel Briere. The word “stopgap” comes to mind. Two year contract with a no-trade clause. Perfect fit. Where he will be slotted is up in the air. There are some that think another deal is in the works, perhaps involving David Desharnais.
What the Canadiens get in Briere is a centre with diminishing NHL capacity, one with a concussion history but, at the same time, one that didn’t cost the Canadiens an asset.
Briere will be 36 in October. He used to be a really good player but in his last three seasons his points per game has dropped from 0.69 to 0.29. Last season there was a 19 game goal drought from mid season until the second last game of the schedule. The year before he went through a 23-game dry spell from January through mid-March. His average ice time last season was 16:04, the lowest of his career.
And the wear and tear on a smallish man playing a big man’s game has taken it’s toll. He had wrist and concussion problems that caused him to miss 14 games last season. He missed 12 the year before with another concussion. Last season he played an average of 16:04 per game, the fewest minutes of his career.
Things could change of course. He might have a bounce-back season. I just wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it.