DALLAS - The Dallas Stars and New York Rangers would not comment on a report that the Rangers have had front-office talks about the possibility of bringing back suspended Stars forward Sean Avery.
The New York Post said Friday that Rangers general manager Glen Sather was expected to speak to Stars co-GM Les Jackson about a timetable under which Dallas would place Avery - who left the Rangers in the off-season to sign with the Stars - on waivers.
If the Rangers were to reacquire Avery, they would be responsible for half of the rest of his four-year, US$15.5 million contract. For Avery to be eligible for the playoffs, the Rangers would have to pick him up before the March 4 trade deadline.
Avery's stay with the Stars ended when he made crude comments to reporters about former girlfriends before a game at Calgary on Dec. 2. Already unpopular with teammates and coaches, Avery was suspended for six games by the NHL and then entered a counselling program under the NHL/NHLPA behavioural health program.
Avery's agent, Pat Morris, told The Dallas Morning News that his client is close to completing the requirements of his anger management therapy and could petition the NHL for reinstatement as soon as Monday.
Stars officials and players have said they don't want Avery back under any circumstances. With their 10-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday night, the Stars improved to 17-7-3 since Avery last played in a Dallas uniform.
Avery's return to the Rangers would involve several steps. First, Avery would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to an American Hockey League team for a conditioning stint. The Stars do not have an AHL affiliate, so they would have to find a team willing to take him. The Rangers' affiliate in Hartford, Conn., would be a likely landing spot in this deal.
Any team could claim him off waivers before the assignment, but would have to pay him his full contract. If Avery clears and spends time in the AHL, he would have to clear waivers again before coming back to the NHL. Any team could then claim him for half of his remaining contract.
Rangers coach Tom Renney was asked about Avery before the game.
"I can't comment on that," Renney said. "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.