Standing behind a podium at a decorated introductory press conference last month, Danny Briere vowed that Flyers fans had his “full attention.”
Now, he might have their full attention.
Briere, a 45-year-old first-time NHL general manager, showed Tuesday just how well he understands the pulse of the fan base, knowing why his actions will mean much more than his words.
Flyers fans are tired of words. They want to see direction. They want to see action.
He knows it.
Already in early June, Briere offered a strong indication he has what it takes to back up his words — to actually drive this rebuild the Flyers say they’re embracing.
In a message-sending three-team trade Tuesday, he moved defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets. In return, from Columbus and the Kings, the Flyers received three drafts picks, including a first-rounder later this month, and three players, one of them a 21-year-old prospect (see full trade details here).
“The last couple of weeks, I've had a few different discussions on Ivan,” Briere said Tuesday night in a Zoom press conference. “There were other teams involved, but it really seemed like the best fit was with Columbus. The interest was really high on Columbus’ side. We started focusing on that a little bit more in the last couple of days.
“Part of it is that we are in a rebuilding stage. We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting. We have a chance to really kind of start building the team the way we want it, the right way that we've talked about. It kind of starts with that.
“It wasn't an easy decision. Ivan has been a really good soldier for the Flyers for a lot of years. A lot of sweat, a lot of hits he has taken, a lot of pucks he has blocked. He has really poured his heart out into the Flyers. So it wasn't an easy decision, but for us, what we were looking at is young guys and picks. We've said it from the beginning, so that was the major reason behind it.”
Briere has emphasized how drafting and developing will be critical to the Flyers building this the right way. He acted on that message by netting the Flyers another first-round pick for this month and two future second-rounders.
As of now, the Flyers have 10 overall picks for the June 28-29 entry draft. In the first round, they’re slotted at Nos. 7 and 22.
It’s certainly possible Provorov could improve and end up playing like a bona-fide top-pair defenseman elsewhere. He’s only 26 years old and has proven he can be a significant difference-maker on a stable club. Last September, Flyers assistant coach Brad Shaw said he felt Provorov wasn’t even close to a finished product yet.
But over the last three seasons, with a ton of turbulence, the Flyers dropped into a rebuild and Provorov became an obvious change-of-scenery candidate.
“Sometimes you have to pay the price to get good assets back, as well,” Briere said. “We're not denying the fact that Ivan is a good defender and he has put in heavy minutes for us and it's going to be tough to replace him. But, at this time, we felt that the assets we were getting to build the team we want to build in the future, that was critical and you have to give up good players to get good assets in return. You don't get first-round picks for players that don't have interest from other teams. You've got to play ball both sides.”
At his end-of-the-season press conference in April, Provorov knew of Briere’s rebuilding vision.
"He was pretty open about it, that it is kind of a rebuild stage,” Provorov said. “We did talk about it, but there was no real set years or how long it's going to take. All that was said was they're going to do it the proper way and I believe he will."
The first move required Provorov’s departure after his seven seasons in Philadelphia, missing only three games and playing in the postseason just two years.
Back in March, just two days into being interim general manager of the Flyers, Briere mentioned how he was not afraid of a rebuild and was ready for this job.
That wasn’t all talk.
On Tuesday, Briere didn’t look like a rookie GM.