The most sought-after unrestricted free agent next summer could be a third-liner.
That’s right, if the New York Rangers don’t lock up super-pest Sean Avery with an extension, you can bet your bottom dollar the NHL’s other 29 teams will get into a bidding war for his services.
Avery is clearly an effective player whose team has much better results with him in the lineup than it has when he’s out. Also, with the way the game is going these days, with an emphasis on physical players, the 27-year-old left winger is the perfect combination of skill and a willingness to engage.
But mostly, you won’t have to break the bank to get him. That said, you can bet somebody will overpay. Is he a $3 million-a-year player? The Rangers probably don’t think so. But when other teams come courting, they might just change their tune, especially if somebody offers him $3 million a year for five years.
Avery has come a long way since his carefree, self-destructive days with the Los Angeles Kings, who traded him to the Rangers last season. Kings GM Dean Lombardi tried desperately to get the wild child to conform, and when he didn’t, Lombardi moved him. My guess is there were many who felt Broadway was Avery’s last stop on his way out of the NHL.
But a funny thing happened. Avery appears to have come to the realization that if he keeps his nose clean, he can make lots of money playing a game he is actually pretty good at.
In fact, if I’m Sean Avery, I don’t even bother re-signing with the Rangers. I let the other teams line up to make me an offer. Then, if he chooses to remain in New York, the stakes will have been raised.
Who knows, maybe even his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, will come calling.
There will be better UFAs than Sean Avery available in July, but there aren’t likely to be many that will attract the attention of so many teams.
Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.
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