Saturday, February 7, 2009
Updated: February 9, 8:01 PM ET
Stars put Avery on waivers
By Pierre LeBrun
The Dallas Stars put Sean Avery on NHL waivers Saturday, the first step in the troubled winger resuming his hockey career.
Avery was cleared from the NHL/NHLPA counseling program either Friday night or Saturday morning, which officially put him back on the Stars' roster. Dallas then immediately put him on waivers.
Avery, who has undergone anger management counseling for two months, must clear waivers at noon ET Monday before being assigned to an American Hockey League club. That's where he's going to resume his hockey career for now.
"That's our plan is to get him down to the AHL and get him playing some hockey," Stars co-GM Les Jackson told ESPN.com Saturday. "That's how he's going to get back to the NHL is by playing and showing people where he's at."
The Stars don't have an AHL affiliate so Jackson hopes to find a team willing to take him.
"He wants to play hockey," Avery's agent, Pat Morris, said Friday. "He wants to come back and help Dallas in the sense of putting them in a position to move him along."
The Stars had to assign forward Chris Conner to the AHL on Saturday in order to make temporary room for Avery on their NHL roster.
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 AHL team that could possibly take Avery is the Hartford Wolf Pack, the main AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. A source confirmed to ESPN.com that the Rangers have some interest in bringing Avery back, saying it was "logical, possible but not definite." But they would only be interested at a discount, which would be the case if the Rangers claim 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.
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 told reporters. "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.
The Stars, meanwhile, remain firm with their decision not to allow Avery back on their team.
"We're not changing our stance at all," Jackson told ESPN.com Friday.
Morris also made clear that while Avery was ready for a return, he would continue to seek out help.
"It'll be ongoing," said the agent. "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."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.