Briere a free agent

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Daniel Briere has officially informed the Buffalo Sabres he's headed to free agency, confirming one of the biggest names slated for unrestricted status will indeed be available when the floodgates open at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

"It's exciting. You don't get the chance to be in this situation very often in your career," Briere told The Canadian Press yesterday.

The Sabres, it's believed, offered Briere a five-year deal worth around $25 million US this week, which wasn't a raise over the $5 million he earned this past season while putting up a career-high 95 points (32-63) in 81 games. Briere's agent Pat Brisson told the Sabres they would try out free agency.

It was also reported that Sabres teammate and fellow star centre Chris Drury also turned down a long-term offer from the NHL club this week, but his agent Mark Witkin would not comment nor confirm that when reached yesterday.

The most coveted winger will be ex-Oiler Ryan Smyth.

Captain Canada is in B.C. at his summer place and will await a call from his agent Don Meehan.

Smyth's name tops the list of nearly a dozen teams.

"Obviously it's flattering, but we'll just see how things pan out Sunday," said Smyth.

Two players removed their names from the unrestricted free-agent market yesterday. Forward Jozef Stumpel signed a $4.5-million, two-year deal to stay with the Florida Panthers while the Los Angeles Kings re-signed veteran blue-liner Jaroslav Modry to a $1.2-million, one-year deal.

But there's plenty left.

Scott Gomez, Mike Comrie, Paul Kariya, Ladislav Nagy, Jason Blake, Todd Bertuzzi and Petr Sykora are among the top names available.


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