It’s become public knowledge that the New York Rangers are interested in bringing NHL bad boy Sean Avery back for a second stint on Broadway after surviving for less than two months of his four year deal in Dallas. So much for the idea that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.
The process the Rangers would have to go through has been well documented here on FOXSports.com by Larry Brooks of the New York Post and the first step, Dallas placing Sean Avery on waivers, has been completed which appears to signify that the wheels are already in motion. The next step would be to assign Avery to the Rangers AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, for a two week conditioning assignment. After that, and assuming he’s received his official release from the NHL/NHLPA behavioral health program, Avery would be recalled by the Stars which would subject him to re-entry waivers. This is where the plan hits a snag.
At that point Avery and the Rangers would have to wait to see if any other team with a waiver priority higher than theirs put in a claim. The waiver priority list is set by the reverse order of the current standings, and despite the Rangers best effort of late (see their 10-2 loss to the Stars) there will still be at least 15, and possibly as many as 20, teams that would have to pass on Avery for the Rangers to have a chance to claim him.
Many have said that this will not be a problem, but I disagree. I think it’s foolish to think that the Rangers are the only NHL team interested in adding Sean Avery to their roster. Avery is under contract through the 2011-2012 season and any team that claimed him on re-entry waivers would only be responsible for half of his $4 million annual salary over the next three seasons. Two million a year for a guy that possesses a rare combination of grit, attitude, scoring ability and annoyance – not to mention a marquee status as one of the most recognizable names in the entire sport? Why wouldn’t an NHL team be interested in that?
Some point to the claim that Avery is a locker room cancer. However, the Rangers had him for 86 regular season games and two playoff runs and they are now desperate to get him back. Rangers head coach Tom Renney called Avery “a great teammate.” Rangers team captain Chris Drury said that Avery “literally played his guts out for us.” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist described Avery as “a great player.” Clearly the Rangers would welcome Avery back which would indicate that the claims he is unable to get along with his teammates have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, he was not welcomed in Dallas but that doesn’t mean all 30 teams would reject him. If he was able to make it work with the Rangers, why couldn’t he do it with another team? Is there any other NHL team that would be willing to take that chance?
I contend that there’s one team that should absolutely take that chance – the New York Islanders.
What would the Islanders have to lose by claiming Avery? They would add a talented player, something they desperately need, they would prevent the Rangers (their bitter rivals) from getting him, they would get some headlines and some much needed national attention and they would take a step towards establishing some sort of team identity.
If Avery did prove to be a problem in the locker room, would it matter to the Islanders? They are already the worst team in the NHL – by far – so how, exactly, would fans be able to tell that Avery was having a detrimental effect on the team? If things got untenable in the Islanders locker room they could always call up the Rangers to make a trade – after all, Rangers GM Glen Sather has made it clear how badly he wants Avery so perhaps he’d be willing to give up a draft pick or two in order to get him.
The Islanders current captain is Bill Guerin, another player with a checkered past in regards to his ability to get along with his teammates (he once punched a teammate during practice while with the Stars) and goaltender Rick DiPietro got into a fight with then teammate Arron Asham during a practice a two years ago. Sounds like Avery would fit right in, eh!
The risk/reward ratio seems to heavily favor the reward side with regards to the Islanders claiming Avery. It’s a move that makes sense to their on-ice product, their marketing, their NHL profile and in their rivalry with the Rangers. Maybe it makes too much sense for the Islanders to pull the trigger. After all, they didn’t get to be the worst team in the league by making good moves.