I for one will be extremely disappointed if we choose to spend 6 million a year on Daniel Briere. Even though this is the new NHL, and he has proven himself to be very well suited to the new conditions, I only have to watch how the league changes at playoff time to know how bad an idea that would be. Daniel Briere has his benefits, but taken in the context of the bulk of the players we have, I don't think he fits. I'll weight up what I think he could offer us below:
1) A French Canadian superstar.
At this point in time, I think this is imperative. The team can't afford to be dragged through the whole language war every time they lose 2 games in a row. Some members of the media are itching for a homegrown (and not Brandon Reed) star. I don’t think they’ll go away. In fact, they’ll continue to create a mess until the big star they crave is brought in. Daniel Briere is a Quebecer, and a star, but not a superstar.
2) A first line centre.
I am happy with Koivu on the first line, but he’s pulling a young Higgins and a one-dimensional Ryder all by himself. A 1b centre to get Kovalev going or take one of Higgins or Ryder off Koivu’s hands would help. Definitely desirable, if not necessary. Briere seems to fit this bill too. 95 points show that. I think he’s still a lesser player than Koivu. I haven’t seen the extra gear for the playoffs, and I don’t see 95 points if it’s 2 equal lines at the top.
Diminutive. Manages to look even smaller than he is.
4) Value for the cap hit.
5-6 million dollars for Koivu Mark II seems a little bit rich. Even if he continues to develop and becomes a 100-point man on the Habs. Elevates Kovalev on his off nights, and exceeds realistic best-case-scenario expectations, 6 million will prevent the team from getting the defenseman they really need.
5) A locker room leader/example
No reason to doubt Briere here. Two long playoff runs, a first place run. Has earned his way into the league.
A bit too expensive for his potential contributions to our team. A bit too small to meet the hole in our team. And, not a big enough star to carry the whole expectation on his own. Overall, I don't think Briere is what we need. It would be a shame to sign him just because he's the only one available.
I also think it would create a him or Koivu situation in the future, where we would be looking for the big/crashing centre that we should be looking for now. Koivu is cheaper for the moment, and coming off a good season. Better to keep the known quantity I think in this case.
If I were Gainey, I'd be looking into the possibility of getting Patrick Marleau. Sign Souray and trade him for Marleau. Ideally Lecavalier would be the one, but I fear he's in Tampa for a while longer...