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Friday, February 6, 2009
Agent: Avery could return soon

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

Sean Avery's return from exile is imminent, his agent confirmed Friday.

The controversial winger, who has undergone anger management counseling for two months, is now ready to continue his hockey career, his agent said.

"He wants to play hockey," his agent, Pat Morris, said. "He wants to come back and help Dallas in the sense of putting them in a position to move him along."

Sean Avery

Avery

The Dallas Stars were waiting to hear from the NHL regarding Avery's status before deciding how to proceed.

"I haven't got any news from the league yet," Stars co-GM Les Jackson said Friday afternoon.

One thing is clear, however: The Stars remain firm with their decision not to allow Avery back on their team.

"We're not changing our stance at all," Jackson said.

Avery was only 23 games into a four-year, $15.5 million deal when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended him on Dec. 5 for making a crude remark about his ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players.

Simmering tension between Avery and his teammates and coach boiled over in the aftermath, with the Stars' dressing room united in its stance against him ever wearing a Stars sweater again.

The next step for Avery likely is to join an American Hockey League team. The Stars don't have an AHL affiliate, so they would need to find a team willing to take him.

Morris also made clear that while Avery was ready for a return, he would continue to seek out help.

"It'll be ongoing," Morris said. "It's not something that's going to stop. He's going to continue to try and better himself and he needs to do that."

Morris said Avery has kept in good shape.

"He's been working out really every day since Dec. 4," Morris said. "He's been on the ice sporadically and wants to be on the ice with a team from here on in. He's looking to take Dallas' direction as to where to report."

The New York Post reported in Friday's edition that the Rangers had interest in reacquiring Avery on re-entry waivers.

Avery is earning $3.5 million this season and has three more years left on the deal that pays him $4 million a season. Should any NHL team claim him on re-entry waivers, it would be on the hook for half of that, with the Stars paying the other half.

Avery's return to the Rangers would involve several steps. First, Avery would have to clear waivers and be signed by the Rangers. Then he would be assigned to Hartford of the American Hockey League affiliate to get back into game shape.

Rangers coach Tom Renney was asked about Avery before Friday's 10-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.

"I can't comment on that," Renney said. "He's Dallas Stars property. It's ridiculous for me to even go down that road."

In Avery's season and a half with the Rangers, the club was 50-23-13 when he played and 24-35-9 when he was out of the lineup.

"Sean is a good hockey player," Renney said. "He can help anybody he plays for, there's no question about that. ... This is a guy who can play and is a great teammate. He was always there for his teammates and laid it on the line every night. How can you not admire that? We had him in a good situation and we used him, I think, appropriately. The entire organization benefits by that."

Avery, acquired by the Rangers in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, 2006, had 15 goals and 18 assists in 57 regular-season games for the Rangers in 2007-08, then added four goals and three assists in eight playoff games. He had three goals, seven assists and 77 penalty minutes in 23 games for Dallas this season.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Rangers' reacquiring Avery was "logical and possible but not definite."

Once Avery is cleared to return, Jackson and co-GM Brett Hull are expected to inform all 29 NHL teams that the player is available.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Scott Burnside of ESPN.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.