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Dallas Stars bosses discuss options with forward Sean Avery

DALLAS - Stars executives met Wednesday to discuss what to do next with Sean Avery, the feisty forward who's been suspended by the NHL and written off by his teammates and coach.

The meeting broke up before Dallas' home game against Phoenix, and no decisions were announced. The team probably won't say anything before Avery's six-game suspension ends Saturday.

Avery was punished by commissioner Gary Bettman for a distasteful remark about ex-girlfriends made Dec. 2. Soon after, coach Dave Tippett and team leaders Mike Modano and Marty Turco made it clear Avery would never be welcomed back into the dressing room. He's played only 23 games for Dallas since signing a US$15.5-million, four-year contract.

Stars owner Tom Hicks, co-general managers Brett Hull and Les Jackson, and team president Jeff Cogen met Wednesday afternoon at Hicks' downtown office to evaluate their options.

The team could keep him away by adding its own suspension on top of the league's punishment. Or, the club could simply say he is away while undergoing treatment for personality issues he and the league said he needs to address.

The Stars could put Avery on waivers or trade him, but it's unlikely another team would want to take on a player with his baggage and his contract - $3.5 million this season, $4 million each of the next three years.

He also could be sent to the minors, but Dallas would have to pay his full salary. The team also would owe him all the money if he is cut. So the cheapest alternative might be to wait until the off-season, when he could be bought out for $8 million, or two-thirds of what he is owed.

Avery, 28, is on his fourth team in seven seasons, having been traded by Detroit and Los Angeles, then not re-signed after last season by the New York Rangers. While playing on both coasts, he raised his celebrity status by dating actresses Rachel Hunter and Elisha Cuthbert and working for Vogue magazine, plus drawing headlines for his brusque, tough-guy approach on the ice.

He's led the league in penalty minutes twice and was doing so again when he was suspended. Avery delights in being considered the most hated man in hockey, a title earned by things he does and says.

Although he inspired enmity and rules changes, he'd never been suspended by the league until last week, when he made a crude reference to several NHL players dating his former girlfriends.

The Stars signed Avery at Hull's urging, in hopes of adding grit to a club that lost in the Western Conference finals last season. Injuries and other issues have turned Dallas into one of the NHL's worst teams; the Stars had 24 points, fewest in the West, going into Wednesday night's home game against Phoenix.



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