Sean Avery’s second stint with the New York Rangers appears to be over.
The veteran forward failed to make the NHL team out of training camp and was placed on waivers Tuesday.
The writing had been on the wall for Avery. He was battling Erik Christensen for the final forward position and was made a healthy scratch for exhibition games in Bratislava, Slovakia and Zug, Switzerland in recent days.
“I think we have better players than Sean Avery—plain and simple,” Rangers coach John Tortorella told reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday. “I can dodge it 10 different ways without trying to run Sean over. I thought he had a good camp.
“But I think with the makeup of our team, and some of the people we’ve added, and some of the youth we’ve added as far as depth put Sean in this spot.”
If Avery goes unclaimed by noon Eastern on Wednesday, the Rangers can send him to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford. They might also explore the option of loaning him to a European team.
New York opens the regular season in Stockholm with a game against Los Angeles on Friday.
The 31-year-old Avery is entering the final year of a contract that pays him US$4 million and is coming off one of his least productive seasons as a NHL player. He had just three goals and 24 points in 76 games for New York last year.
Avery, arguably the league’s biggest pest, also racked up 174 minutes in penalties. Tortorella indicated that the time had come for the team to move on.
“The players that are here are better than Sean Avery,” he said. “Maybe not in the role or a couple instances Sean could help us in, but they’re more versatile in a lot of different areas.
“I’m trying to do this the right way because I do not want to keep on shovelling dirt over Sean Avery, but we have better players than Sean Avery right now on the hockey club.”
The controversial forward found himself back in the headlines earlier in the pre-season, when he claimed Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds uttered a homophobic slur at him during a game. Replays seemed to back up Avery’s assertion, but the NHL decided against disciplining Simmonds because it couldn’t substantiate the claim.
Avery has been a strong advocate for gay marriage in New York State.
His first tenure with the Rangers ended in 2008 when he left as a free agent to sign a $15.5-million, four-year deal in Dallas. It ended up being a short stay with the Stars after Avery made his infamous “sloppy seconds” remark about an ex-girlfriend who had started dating Dion Phaneuf.
That earned him a six-game suspension from the NHL, a stint in anger management counselling and a banishment from the Stars. New York ended up claiming him on a re-entry waivers in March 2009—meaning it was only on the hook for half of his salary.
Dallas is still paying the other half.