The message boards are seething over the Sabres' initial contract offer co-captain Daniel Briere has turned down. It was for five years and believed to be worth $25 million.
Not a bad chunk of change for us working stiffs, but hockey fans apparently are an astute bunch that understands the reality of sports business. For a team leader, 95-point scorer and All-Star MVP, that contract clearly won't cut it -- and if Briere heads out of town, it will be that much tougher to re-sign Chris Drury regardless of how much money the Sabres throw at him. Drury flat out wants Briere on his team.
There's plenty of give and take in a massive contract negotiation, but with two days left until the doors swing open on the free agency market, the Sabres seem to have frittered away their exclusive negotiating rights. Briere will field offers from around the league, and chances are he'll receive one the Sabres can't compete with.
There's also negative history at play here. The past two summers Briere has requested a long-term contract but was rebuffed by Sabres management. He went to them after the lockout and asked for a deal on par with Chris Drury's, which was about $3 million a year. The Sabres signed Briere to a one-year extension at just under $2 million. Last year he approached the Sabres about a five-year deal but eventually went to arbitration, where the Sabres were zapped with a $5 million judgment for one season.
The Sabres have only themselves to blame.
Two years ago, I wrote a story about the ranks of former Sabres (many captains and alternate captains among them) who were spreading a most unfavorable word about what it's like to play for the organization. Since then, Jay McKee, Mike Grier and J.P. Dumont have joined a fraternity that looks like it's about to grow again.