October 04, 2011
Does John Tortorella not have HBO?
How could the New York Rangers coach potentially deprive us of Sean Avery(notes), uncensored on "24/7 Road To the NHL Winter Classic" by cutting the uber-pest in favor of Erik Christensen(notes) at forward? The anything-goes chirping, the fashion reviews, the parties with Catherine Keener and an Olson twin … sorry, but you simply don't get that from Ruslan Fedotenko(notes). At least not in English.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post broke the news on Tuesday that Avery would be waived by the Rangers, having been scratched in the team's final two preseason games in Europe; with Tortorella saying, "I know what Sean is and the type of player, what he does."
Boy, does he. During their time in New York, Tortorella and Avery have had their tense moments. Like Avery being a healthy scratch in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2009; or battling over Avery's level of "engagement" in 2010; and his continued marginalization in Tortorella's plans last season.
Now, he's completely out of those plans.
Tortorella, who essentially had Avery forced on him as a condition of taking the job with the Rangers in February of 2009 after general manager Glen Sather had committed to reacquiring No. 16 from the Stars, never could find a comfort level with the winger, whose role became more and more marginalized.
The coach never could find the way to get the most out of Avery and never could find a comfort level with the winger's unique brand of risk/reward hockey. Avery was scratched last year in six of the final 12 games and the first playoff match after getting less than 10:00 of ice in 12 of the last 14 games in which he played. Tortorella came into this year's camp determined to have a low-maintenance team.
Obviously, with Avery, his impact isn't contained to the rink. There was the run-in with the LAPD this summer, for which Avery was exonerated. There was his foray into politics, backing the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York and angering some critics. And, most recently, there was Avery's controversial accusation that Wayne Simmonds(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers used a homophobic slur against him, something Simmonds denied while subtly claiming Avery provoked it with his own harsh verbiage.
But on the ice, his ability to get under a player's skin (ask Kovalchuk) and his undeniable hustle as an energy line player are assets that the Rangers will miss -- and could be an asset to another team, should he continue his hockey career and not make the inevitable transition to another career as a fashion consultant and Bonnaroo roadie.
So now what for Avery? Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reports that Avery's agent Pat Morris "confirms his client will be placed on waivers and if he clears, will be exploring all options which includes Europe."
In retrospect, now, it seems like this was the Rangers' plan all along, much as it was last season in clearing Wade Redden's(notes) $6.5 million from the cap by sending him to Connecticut. Avery just has not won the trust of the coaching staff, either with his play with the puck or in how - fairly or unfairly - he can be a penalty magnet. The fact that he was a healthy scratch for the final two preseason games, albeit after suffering a bad cut to his lip against Frolunda on Friday, seems to solidify the notion that this move had been decided. Avery played an effective game against the Flyers this past Monday in Philadelphia, albeit a controversial one after the incident with Wayne Simmonds.
Brooks wonders if whether the Rangers "would put Avery on re-entry at any point and absorb the dead space of (pro-rated) $969,000 if claimed; salary is $4 million this year. Dallas pays $2 million no matter what. The Rangers and the claiming team would pay $1 million each."
All of this stems from the four-year, $15.5 million free-agent contract Avery signed with the Dallas Stars in 2008. He played 23 games before being suspended indefinitely by the NHL; eventually returning to the Rangers on re-entry waivers in March 2009.
(It's here we note that Sean Avery has gone from criticizing his "sloppy seconds" to being placed on waivers.)
Prior to his tenure as Rangers coach, Tortorella was a commentator for TSN. When Avery pulled his locker room comedy routine that earned him the suspension, Torts said on the air:
"He's embarrassed himself, he's embarrassed the [Dallas Stars'] organization, he's embarrassed the League and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn't belong in the league."
Two years later, Tortorella's practiced what he preached.
UPDATE: Here's the cap situation for the Stars, via ESPN Dallas --
he reason? The Stars still carry a $1.9375 cap hit for the Rangers claiming Sean Avery off re-entry waivers in March 2009. If Avery clears waivers and the Rangers move him off their roster by assigning him to the minor leagues then his cap hit would come off the Stars' cap hit.
That could present the Stars with some issues concerning the NHL's salary cap floor of $48.3 million. I don't think it is an urgent issue at the moment, especially with Scott Glennie(notes) on injured reserve. If he still there when the season starts he would count against the salary cap as long as he is on there.
So there you go.