He chose not to, instead signing an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and getting booed at Bell Centre practically every time he visited.
When the final two years of that contract were bought out by the Flyers last week, and Briere suddenly had another opportunity to join the Canadiens, he jumped on it.
The Canadiens and Briere agreed Thursday on a two-year contract reportedly worth $8 million, bringing him back to his home province six years after he spurned a competitive offer from Montreal.
"It was a decision between the two teams that tore me up," Briere said in a conference call with reporters. "But in my heart, I grew up in Quebec and always dreamed of playing for the Canadiens. I feel blessed that I received this second chance. … That's why I wanted to do everything possible to sign with the Canadiens."
Briere, 35, had at least 25 goals in three of his six seasons in Philadelphia, helping the Flyers reach the Eastern Conference Final twice and get to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. In 15 NHL seasons, Briere, a 1996 first-round pick (No. 24) of the Phoenix Coyotes, has 286 goals and 659 points in 847 games with the Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Flyers.
"Daniel Briere brings a great deal of skills, experience and leadership to our team, and he is a significant addition to our group of forwards," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "Daniel showed a great desire to pursue his career in Montreal and we are very happy that he committed to playing in Montreal for the next two seasons."
Briere had his worst offensive season in 2012-13, finishing with six goals and 16 points in 34 games. His production has been in decline since notching 68 points in 77 games in 2010-11, going from 0.88 points per game to 0.70 in 2011-12 to 0.47 last season, his lowest total since 1999-2000.
"It definitely was a season where I wasn't happy with the way things went," Briere said.
A big factor was a fractured wrist he suffered playing in Germany during the lockout, causing him to miss the first four games of the NHL season.
"Starting behind everybody," Briere said, "I just never caught up."
Briere also missed almost a month with a concussion, his second in as many seasons, but he said there is nothing to worry about and he is "100 percent in that regard."
The decision to buy out Briere did not leave him with any bad feelings for the Flyers. On the contrary, when asked if the way he was used in Philadelphia contributed to his drop in production, Briere refused to answer, choosing to focus on his future in Montreal.
But he did not hide the fact his buyout will help drive him to prove Philadelphia wrong.
"It's another level of motivation," he said. "I have nothing bad to say about the Flyers, what they did was done with class. But that is definitely a source of motivation."
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