The NHL career of a player whose time in the spotlight was never commensurate with his ability may be over.
Sean Avery, 31, will go on waivers Tuesday as New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella decided the team’s last forward spot will go to centre Erik Christensen, who is four years younger. Avery’s agent, Pat Morris, told ESPN.com his client is looking at all his options, including playing in Europe, and indicated Avery would report to the Rangers’ American Hockey League farm team if necessary.
In order to collect the $4-million remaining on the last year of his contract, Avery would have to play in the AHL unless he and the Rangers work out an arrangement with a European team. The Rangers are only charged $1.93-million against the salary cap for Avery because they claimed him on re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars in 2008. The Stars are responsible for the other $1.93-million of Avery’s total cap hit because they put him on waivers.
The whole Stars episode sums up Avery’s career in the NHL – he was signed away from the Rangers as a free agent in hopes he would add some grit to the forward ranks but all he brought was unwanted media attention for tasteless remarks about another player’s girlfriend. After less than one season with the team, the Stars were so eager to be rid of Avery they took the cap hit so the Rangers could bring him back to New York.
Avery’s second go-round with the Rangers was less noisy than his first – he even found public approval with by supporting gay marriage in a public-service ad – but he was never more than a fringe player. His best NHL season was 2006-07, split between the Los Angles Kings and the Rangers, when he compiled a modest 48 points.
But Avery’s value was never about points. Although challenged many, many times, the native of Pickering, Ont., was not much of a fighter. But he was a skilled agitator, a player adept at getting under the skins of opposing players, driving them to distraction with his prickly play and active chatter.
An inability to govern what came out of that active mouth kept Avery at the heart of one controversy after another. The end came for him with the Stars when he made vulgar, sexually charged remarks about Dion Phaneuf’s girlfriend, whom he once dated. Ten days ago, Avery accused Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds of directing a homophobic slur at him, although the league was unable to substantiate the charge.
Given the size of his salary and the headaches that come with him, it is unlikely any NHL team will claim Avery from the waiver wire.