Martin Biron planted the seeds early.
While the former Buffalo Sabres goaltender worked out with his buddy Daniel Briere in June, weeks before the marquee centre was set to hit the open market, Biron playfully hinted they should be teammates again in Philadelphia.
"As we were working out, I was just joking around. 'One more rep, Danny, that will help us this year,' " recalled Biron yesterday before the Flyers opened their season at the Saddledome against the Calgary Flames.
Biron kept the conversation light, though, because he knew Briere had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of him and had to make the decision on his own.
"There was a lot of pressure on him. I didn't want to be the one guy to just throw everything at him."
It worked out perfectly, with the pals reunited and Briere cashing in on a massive $52-million contract that will keep him in the City of Brotherly Love for eight seasons, paying him $10M in the first year.
"It's kind of surreal," said Briere. "It doesn't seem like it's really happening."
It's kind of like winning the lottery for a second time. Briere was awarded a one-year deal worth $5 million last summer after piling up 58 points in just 48 games during an injury-shortened 2005-06 NHL campaign.
But the money is an afterthought for the diminutive playmaker, who is hoping to prove to the Flyers it was a wise investment by helping the team rebound from a terrible season last year.
Briere knows a bit about bouncing back. There was a time it appeared his NHL career would be over before it really began. He was shuffled between the AHL, IHL and the Phoenix Coyotes over his first four professional seasons.
Full of raw talent, he lacked the maturity and motivation to be a top player.
Despite a couple of encouraging full-time campaigns with the Coyotes following all the turmoil, it wasn't until he was sent to Buffalo that it all really seemed to come together for the father of three, who turns 30 tomorrow. His boys are now ages 6, 8 and 9, and Briere credits them as one of the reasons he fought for his career..
"When things don't go quite as good, you come home and your kids don't care what happened at the rink -- how bad or how good you played -- they're just happy to see you with a big smile on their face," he said. "Maturing was a big part of it, finding the love of the game again. I realized that I wasn't having fun.