Briere or Ryder: Did the Habs Make the Right Choice?

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
Elsa/Getty Images North America
Elsa/Getty Images North America

 

By Steven Ellis, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

OAKVILLE, ON —As you likely already are aware, the Montreal Canadiens signed Philadelphia Flyers buyout Daniel Briere to a two year contract worth $4M per season. The 35-year-old forward has suited up for 847 career games with three different teams, spending the past six years with the Philadelphia Flyers. The signing was bitter sweet for Canadiens fans, who were hoping Briere would sign with the club back in 2007 while he was still in his prime. Thankfully, the 5’10” Briere chose to sign with the Flyers, which ultimately ended in disaster as the club used a compliance buyout on the player who decided to take his talents to South Jersey in lieu of a six year, $42 million contract.

This time around, Briere will replace winger Michael Ryder, who was a pleasant addition to the team earlier this past season. During the summer of 2011-12, Ryder signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars for $7 million. During his only full season with the club, Ryder put up his best career goal numbers to date. Midway through the lockout shortened 2012-2013 campaign, he was traded to Montreal for Erik Cole in a deal that looked good for both squads. Cole was a forward who was struggling with the Canadiens, with just three goals and six points in 19 games, but he was also coming off an impressive 35 goal season. Ryder, who already had 14 points in the first 19 games of the season, was welcomed back to Montreal with open arms, especially considering his $3.5M cap hit was extremely cap friendly.

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America

Ryder’s production wouldn’t slow while playing as a member of the Canadiens, recording 10 goals and 21 points in 27 games. So when July 5th rolled around, it was expected Ryder was going to get a bigger deal this time, right? Well, the Canadiens chose not to re-sign him, and instead Ryder inked a new deal with the New Jersey Devils…for an identical contract he signed two years ago. Yes folks, Ryder, who still has a lot left in the tank, was signed for less than Briere, who has been on a downward spiral the past couple of seasons.

Last season, Briere had only six goals and ten assists in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign and has had concussion issues in recent years. The thought that the Canadiens let Ryder leave after recording 29 more goals over the last two years and 32 more points than the newbie in bleu, blanc et rouge is kind of appalling, and I can’t really put together why they would let that happen. Ryder, a guy who went without a goal in the season’s last nine games last year for Montreal, however, did prove to be somewhat streaky with the squad, and while he wasn’t a long term solution for the team’s scoring woes, Briere definitely is not the answer either.

That’s not to say Briere is all bad. With the signing, the Habs now have a grand total of three native French speakers on the roster, and considering David Desharnais and Francis Bouillon are going to get a bunch of nights off, local fans have one of their own to cheer for. As for on-ice, Briere, who is versatile at center or wing, can replace Desharnais as one of the top two centremen on the squad, as well as fill in on the wing if Rene Bourque or Brian Gionta begin to falter. Now, a wing option such as Brendan Morrow or Jaromir Jagr would have likely been able to put more productive numbers, Briere does give coach Michel Therrien the opportunity to move him around if needed.

AP Photo/Tom Mihalek
AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

The term of the contract does possibly weaken the blow that could have arisen from signing Briere. At the conclusion of the two year pact, the Canadiens can sign the aging forward to a short term contract for a year or two if he can still add value to the squad. If not, this will likely give enough time for Christian Thomas, Louis Leblanc and Michael Bournival to develop into full time NHLer’s who would be able to fill Briere’s role effectively. Dont forget, this deal is more appealing than the five year contract the Flyers inked Vincent Lecavalier to just prior to the Briere signing, as it unlikely Vinny will be able to fill out the full length of the deal before getting bought out of his $4,500,000 cap hit. Even though he’s older and several concussions removed from the 95-point player he was the last time Montreal tried to woo him, his contract makes him expendable if he doesn’t live up to it.

Luckily for the Canadiens, Briere is a proven playoff performer. In the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup final in 2010, Briere had 12 goals and 18 assists in 23 games, including a strong performance that lead to the demise of the Canadiens on their incredible Jaroslav Halak-led run. In 108 career post-season games, he has 50 goals and 109 points, good for just over a point per game. The second best player in terms of playoff production currently on the Canadiens in Gionta, who has 61 points in 95 games, mainly recorded during his time with the New Jersey Devils.

Now, the question is whether or not the Canadiens made the right choice signing Briere over Ryder. At the cost both players signed for at the start of free agency, there is no question New Jersey got the better deal, a steal perhaps. Briere, who will turn 36 on October 6, is three years older than Ryder at 33, which can also bring up confused faces. With $3,386,667 in cap space left, Montreal certainly could have kept Ryder after getting rid of some cap space (or just not signing Briere all together.) Maybe Ryder didn’t fit into the long term plans, but he has much more value than Briere, which could have meant some valuable pieces coming together via trade later on.

Of course, Briere has yet to play a game in a Canadiens uniform, so who knows how he will perform? Maybe he can find some chemistry with fellow under-sized players Gionta and Desharnais, or maybe he will just slide into old age purgatory like Tomas Kaberle did last season. There is only a slight $500,000 price difference between the two, so its not like huge cash is getting thrown out the window, but with the difference in points you have to wonder why the Canadiens didn`t just let him slip off towards another club. On the flip side, while he’s not six-foot-five and 238 pounds, like 2013 first round pick Michael McCarron, Brière, provided he can stay healthy, still hasn’t totally fallen flat on his face just yet. Maybe a change of scenery will be positive for the small forward.

I would like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below on who you would have preferred, Ryder or Briere.


Follow me on Twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

8 COMMENTS

  1. From my point of view, I believe this signing is a playoff one. If you followed the habs 2013 playoffs, they didn’t score much, therefore bringing briere to Montreal is about playoffs and less about the season. Marc Bergevin is confident in his line up and thinks that they can make it back to the playoffs, but there is still a long time left before the season starts, so more signings might be coming,

  2. I think Ryder would have proven to be a better deal than Briere, given his performance the past couple of years and his very affordable price. As a matter of fact I don’t know why he is so affordable; he should be around 5 million per season.

    Having said that I don’t think Ryder wanted to sign with Montreal after last season given his demeanor when he was interviewed after his come-back. So I think Bergevin tried to discuss bringing him back this year and it didn’t go well and in the media it came out that the Habs didn’t want to bring him back. Probably the Habs trying to save face. But really what team wouldn’t want to bring a guy back at that price and production level?

  3. briere will add to the habs power play. a solid boost at least. and signing white was the most important signing this year other than briere. white can do it all. if they put him in front of the bet on the power play he might benefit.

  4. Just three points and general anonymity in Ryder’s last thirteen games for Montreal didn’t really help him if he wanted a contract from Montreal.

    Stating the obvious but it will come down to Briere’s ability to stay injury free on whether or not this is a good signing. I’ll be happy with a seventy game season and anything over 50 points.

  5. I agree that this is a playoff move from the Habs’ POV (remember what MB said about players that get you there, and those who get you through em). There also may have been something up with Ryder not wanting to stay in MTL.

    More importantly, for me, Ryder scored at a 17% shooting percentage last season for the Habs. This is simply not sustainable. His career average is comparatively high at 12.79% (about 10% is normal for NHL scorers) but his average has been pulled up by his last two seasons (16.59% in Dallas in 2011-12).

    Maybe Ryder has found the secret to beating NHL goalies in his 30s, but I think it more likely that he has had some puck luck the past couple years and the safe money is on his productivity declining/regressing to the norm this season.

    Briere is the exact opposite story – 6.9% last season was well below his career average shooting percentage of 14.39%. Unlikely he returns to that level in MTL, but we do have some great set up men (Pleks, DD, Eller, Markov) to work with and I expect Briere to score at least 20 this year (if healthy), and hopefully more in the playoffs.

  6. Interesting viewpoint, Josh. I personally don’t think he is much more than a energy depth forward, and I think it was shown from his overall lack of production this season. I also think he seems better fit with Hamilton, where he played very well. The biggest challenge he is going to have to overcome for sure this year is staying healthy, as will Briere.

  7. Too much Ryder love from these fans. Ryder was exactly what this team does not need; a guy who scores goals in spurts, does not hit, and plays on coast speed most nights. He was a fantastic pickup last year, and gave us exactly what we needed…. but we can’t keep him around. Sure he scores, but everything else he does screams of the old regime and the attitude that this team does not need. I will get hate for this, but I would go so far as to say I would rather have Ryan White on my hockey team than Micheal Ryder.

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