Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Updated: December 12, 9:49 PM ET
Stars bosses meet to discuss Avery, options
By Scott Burnside
Sean Avery's future with the Dallas Stars may have been brought a little more into focus Wednesday, but the decision won't be shared at least until Avery's six-game suspension comes to an end next week.
Stars owner Tom Hicks told reporters at the board of governors' meetings in Florida earlier this week that he would meet with president Jeff Cogen and co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson Wednesday to discuss options for moving forward with Avery.
Jackson said the club won't make any public announcement on Avery until next week.
"We talked it out," Jackson said to The Associated Press. "Everybody had an opinion. Sometime next week we'll have something put together."
If there was an interested party, the Stars could trade Avery straight up. That would almost undoubtedly involve taking on some other team's problem, financial or otherwise. A well-placed hockey industry source told ESPN.com on Wednesday evening there was a rumor percolating that Avery's old team, the New York Rangers, were interested in dealing defenseman Michal Rozsival and his four-year, $20-million deal to Dallas in exchange for Avery. The source suggested Avery would then be sent to the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford in order to free up cap space to allow the Rangers to make a serious run at unrestricted free agent Mats Sundin who is believed to be paring down the list of teams he will considering signing with and hoping to make a decision within the next week.
Sources connected to the situation expressed surprise Wednesday evening at the Avery trade rumor seeing how the Rangers' efforts to re-sign the free agent last summer weren't as vigorous as the efforts of other teams including the Stars.
Sundin will actually be in New York later this week to promote a poker site with which he is affiliated, adding some intrigue to the notion. The New York Post reported Wednesday evening that Sundin will meet with Rangers GM Glen Sather at that time.
Avery was suspended last week by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after Avery made off-color comments about his ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert to reporters in Calgary.
Avery is eligible to return to the Stars' lineup Tuesday, but few think that's likely to happen. Avery has agreed to seek help for anger issues and there is some question about whether he'd be ready to play next week even if the Stars were willing to take him back.
It's believed Wednesday's meeting was designed to allow the Stars' management team to outline their feelings about having Avery return and the options for dealing with the situation once the suspension ends.
Comments made by head coach Dave Tippett, players and Jackson suggests there is a strong sentiment that Avery would not be welcomed back and that the team is prepared to move forward without him.
Still, Avery has the bulk of a four-year, $15.5 million deal he signed in the offseason with the Stars ahead of him so there are a host of issues confronting the team in how to proceed if Avery is going to be persona non grata with the Stars.
Avery could be put on waivers and sent to the AHL where they would be responsible for paying him, but his salary wouldn't count against the salary cap -- assuming of course no team would pick him up. The Stars don't have a designated affiliate this year and finding a home for Avery in the AHL could be a problem although he'd likely help with ticket sales.
The team also would owe him all the money if he is cut. So the cheapest alternative might be to wait until the offseason, when he could be bought out for $8 million, or two-thirds of what he is owed.
The Stars could send him to the minors and then hope some team would be interested in his services on re-entry waivers in which case that team would only have to pay half Avery's salary with the Stars picking up the balance.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.