Danny Briere said goodbye to the Philadelphia Flyers, though he's not leaving the area.
The Flyers are buying out the final two years of Briere's contract, a move that will shave $6.5 million US off their salary cap. Briere will become an unrestricted free agent as part of Philadelphia's off-season shake-up of its high-priced roster that missed the playoffs last season.
"This is my home," Briere said of South Jersey. "Wherever I'm going to end up, the kids are staying here and I'm coming back here. This is what we consider home now."
Briere has three boys ages 12, 13 and 14. He hopes to sign with a team nearby and isn't planning to uproot his kids from their schools.
"They're at an age where it's getting tougher to move them around and that's why this is going to stay home for me and them," Briere said. "Not just with me, but they see players come and go and players have to move. We've had to do it ourselves a few times. It's never an easy situation but I think they're prepared for it."
The Flyers had one of the NHL's most expensive payrolls last season and must shed salary to get under next season's cap. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is another candidate to have his contract bought out.
Under NHL rules, teams have the option of two amnesty buyouts to terminate contracts before the start of the 2014-15 season.
"They know it's not easy for the players in the organization to be in that situation, so I'm sure they'll handle it with class as well and try to do the best for the team and also for Bryz," Briere said.
Briere is a 15-year NHL veteran, who had six goals and 10 assists in 34 games last season. He's a seven-time 25-goal scorer, but his production has tailed off as a result of various injuries.
He signed a $52 million, eight-year deal before the 2007-08 season, and played a key role in helping the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup final in 2010 before losing to Chicago in six games.
"The first five years here were amazing," Briere said. "Obviously last year, not making the playoffs was a tough season — the lockout, the short season. That was the tough one. But before that, the previous five, there's a lot of good memories. But the one that I think stands out the most is the playoff run, making the playoffs on the last regular-season game on the shootout and then going on that run all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. That's definitely the best little stretch of my time here."
A fan favourite in Philadelphia, Briere met with the media at the team's practice facility after the move was announced and thanked the organization and the city.
"Everybody that works in the Flyers organization, they were respectful the whole time," Briere said. "It wasn't an easy thing for them, either. But they did it with a lot of class and I'll always be grateful for that and also my time here as a Flyer."