Less than a day until one of the most exciting times of the hockey world's year.
Tomorrow, on July 1st 2007, promises to be an even better showing of the unrestricted free-agent party than its 2006 version.
Big names like Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, Sheldon Souray, Ryan Smyth, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Scott Hannan, Roman Hamrlik and last but maybe the least, Alexei Yashin, are the creme of this year's unrestricted free-agent class and nearly all seem to be ready to sign with new teams.
And in less than 24 hours, the Sabres may have to face reality and possibly lose both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
Drury and Briere held the C for this year's version of the Buffalo Sabres, and both had career years with Drury setting a high in points (69) and goals (37).
Meanwhile, Briere surpassed his fantastic but short 2005-2006 season and his previous "career year " of 2003-2004 by scoring 95 points, 32 of them being goals and 65 helpers.
You could argue their offensive success was due to the fact that the team has so much depth and so many quality forwards available to them on their sides, or that both were looking to cash big at tomorrow's much anticipated event.
Chris Drury was for the most part of the 2006-2007 season expected by media and fans alike to be the one Darcy Regier "chooses" in the two-man Sabre saga.
That same saga that captured almost everyone's focus during the year rendered guys like Scott Gomez, Paul Kariya and Sheldon Souray seem like second-rate.
However, reports near the end of the season and heading into the playoffs became stronger and stronger and indicated that Darcy Regier may even have a tough time keeping one of the two, that both could command up to $7 million should they hit the open market.
As the playoffs wore on, Chris Drury made it easy for Regier to make his choice, putting up 8 goals and a total of 13 points in 16 contests while his counterpart in the two-man battle, Daniel Briere, put up more points than he did but felt unpolished in many ways.
He felt unpolished when it came to leadership and didn't lead his team when it needed it the most, especially in the Ottawa series, when he looked totally lost on the ice and made me think on more than a few occasions "Where the heck is Daniel Briere?"
His offensive game was also lacking the same zip it had in the regular season, and managed only 3 goals, and that might have been the factor to this blogger's disappointment in him.
The 12 assists number is also very deceiving; at a glance, you first think: "gee that's good" but if you seriously watched the games, then you realized that most of them meant nothing and only a few really were game-breakers.
Briere had a good series against the Rangers, but completely faded away against Ottawa, while Chris Drury stood tall till the end, and this might lift up more than a few lids...like a true captain.
I said it before, I think Briere had leadership issues in the playoffs, or UFA status was clouding his mind or whatever, something didn't click and down Buffalo went in 5 against the Senators.
And if rumours are true, that a Briere-Drury lockeroom fight occurred over a few harsh words spoken by Briere in the lockeroom, then so long, happy trails!
It truly is sad to think that the Sabres might lose both of them and get nothing back, nothing at all, imagine how the team will play next year potentially without its two captains and two of its top scorers?
Not very good I assume.
But anyhow, I'm sure Darcy Regier now regrets not signing Briere to that 5-year $25 million contract he wanted last year, and having the same offer rejected by him this year.
I'm not so sure about his status right now, but I assume he would likely be willing to take a "hometown" discount and remain with the same team that traded Steven Reinprecht and Rhett Warrener to get him (which at this point seems pathetically shallow on the Flames' side).
There's pretty strong speculation that he will part ways from Buffalo and sign with a California-based team, rumoured to be the Los Angeles Kings.
All this while Briere would look for greener pastures in the towns of Philadelphia, with buddy Martin Biron, or in Montreal, where the media is already building the barrier that would keep him out and raise my blood pressure.
As I said in the beginning, tomorrow should be a very interesting and most certainly eventful day, and Buffalo Sabres fans should prepare for major disappointment and lament their close to certain losses of the beloved Chris Drury and the 95-point man in Daniel Briere.
The loss of a captain, a leader and of such a complete player that is Drury, may wind up hurting the Sabres real bad, on and off the ice.
I'm sure Derek Roy can carry the load once Briere is gone, and he may even end up doing better than the latter.
And to end this prequel to tomorrow's live-blog event, I blame Darcy Regier for keeping this until the last minute and not bending his ways of not negotiating contracts in the regular season and here's the fatal result: losing Daniel Briere and/or Chris Drury.
Check out this full "per team" list of 2007's NHL free agents.
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30 June 2007
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