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Briere signs 8-year, $52 million deal with Flyers

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Daniel Briere will never be undervalued again.

The skilled but undersized forward signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, immediately becoming the top player signed on the first day of the NHL's free agency period and leaving the Buffalo Sabres without one of their co-captains.

The Flyers weren't done. A few hours later they swung a major four-player deal with the Edmonton Oilers, acquiring defensemen Jason Smith and forward Joffrey Lupul in exchange for defenseman Joni Pitkanen and journeyman forward Geoff Sanderson.

It was a big day for general manager Paul Holmgren, who continues revamping what had been an aging and slow team that finished with a league-low 22 wins last season.

"We are extremely please to add Daniel to our roster and eager to get him into our lineup," Holmgren said. "We look for big things from him."

The contract is heavily front-loaded, with Briere to make $10 million next season - double what he made last year. He'll then make $8 million in the next two years and $7 million during the 2010-13 seasons. The contract then tapers off with Briere scheduled to make $3 million in 2013-14 and $2 million in the final year of the deal.

The Flyers outbid numerous teams that were interested in Briere, the former Sabres co-captain, who finished 10th in the league with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) last season. Buffalo could also lose co-captain Chris Drury to free agency.

"Danny had many offers and lots of interest out there," said Pat Brisson, his agent. "He made sure to carefully look at his options. He is thrilled with the results."

The trade came as a surprise.

Lupul is a three-year veteran, who struggled in Edmonton after the Oilers acquired him in a deal that sent Chris Pronger to Anaheim last summer. Lupul had 16 goals and 12 assists last season, a considerable dropoff after scoring 28 goals and 25 assists the previous year with Anaheim.

Smith is a 14-year veteran and was the Oilers captain. He's a dependable blue-liner who had two goals and 11 points last year.

The Oilers were also looking to shake up their roster after missing the playoffs last season.

In three seasons, Pitkanen has established himself a solid offensive defensemen and is expected to bolster what had been a sputtering Oilers power play. He's coming off his second consecutive 40-point season, in which he scored four goals and 39 assists.

Sanderson is a 16-year veteran, who will be joining his seventh team. He's still productive, managing 11 goals and 18 points for the Flyers last season.

"Joni is a talented young defenseman with a proven track record," Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said. "He possesses the offensive skills we have been seeking on the blue line and look forward to having him in the lineup."

The Flyers already bolstered their lineup two weeks ago when they acquired defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell in a trade with the Nashville Predators. Philadelphia then signed both to six-year deals: Timonen for $37.8 million and Hartnell for $25.2 million.

Briere will be reunited with friend and former teammate, goaltender Martin Biron, who was traded to Philadelphia by Buffalo in February and has since claimed the No. 1 job.

Briere broke off talks with the Sabres on Friday, disappointed that Buffalo offered him a five-year, $25 million contract. The offer averaged out to the one-year, $5 million contract Briere was awarded in arbitration last summer, leaving the player confident he could get more on the open market.

The new deal is a big step up for Briere, who earlier in his career was knocked for his slight 5-foot-9, 177-pound frame. At one point, he was placed on waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes.

A nine-year veteran, Briere emerged as a star shortly after Buffalo acquired him in a deal with Phoenix in March 2003. He has scored 92 goals and 138 assists for 230 points in 225 games with the Sabres, a big improvement after 70 goals and 76 assist for 146 points in 258 games with the Coyotes.

He appeared in his first career All-Star Game this season and earned the game's MVP honors. He also produced in the clutch, scoring 10 game-winners over the past two seasons.

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