New York Rangers\' Sean Avery, top, slams Toronto Maple Leafs\' Darcy Tucker to the ice during the first period of their hockey game, Sunday, April 1, at Madison Square Garden in N.Y. (CPimages/AP/Ed Betz)
The pesky forward re-signed with the New York Rangers on Wednesday after being awarded a US$1.9 million salary for next season following a lengthy arbitration hearing.
Avery, who provided a huge spark to the Rangers last season after being traded by Los Angeles, earned an $800,000 raise.
He was seeking $2.6 million in arbitration while New York countered with a proposal of $1.3 million. The arbitrator essentially split the difference.
The hearing lasted an unusually long five hours Monday and reportedly featured some tough talk by the Rangers.
The Rangers, who are up against the $50.3 million salary cap for next season, could have walked away from the arbitrator's ruling but quickly signed Avery after it was handed down. Teams can be 10 per cent over the cap until Oct. 1.
In announcing the signing, Rangers general manager Glen Sather spoke well of the gritty left-winger.
"We are pleased to have Sean under contract and are looking forward to him returning with the same passion and enthusiasm he brought to our team last year," Sather said. "He is a terrific competitor, who we expect to play a significant role in a successful season."
Pat Morris, Avery's agent, didn't immediately return a phone message left at his office.
Avery played in 84 games with the Rangers and Kings last season, posting career highs with 18 goals and 30 assists. He also had 174 penalty minutes, far below the previous two seasons when he led the NHL with totals above 250.
The 27-year-old had eight goals and 12 assists after joining the Rangers. Avery, who has also played for Detroit, has 50 goals, 84 assists and 913 penalty minutes in 322 career games.
According to the New York Post, the Rangers referred to Avery as "a reasonably effective player as well as a detriment to team," in a brief given to the arbitrator. Management also said "Avery is not a mature player. He plays, at times, like an individual rather than a member of a team," the newspaper reported.
"I have no idea what to say," Avery told the New York Post in an e-mail. "I don't know what this was about. I'm shocked."
Avery drew heaps of praise following his arrival from Los Angeles on Feb. 5. He injected a shot of energy and gave the Rangers a physical and emotional edge that translated into a 17-6-6 mark over the final 29 games.
He also was instrumental in getting the Atlanta Thrashers off their game during a first-round playoff sweep.
But he talked about wanting to hurt Buffalo players before the second-round series and wasn't nearly as effective in the six-game loss to the Sabres.
He went pointless after putting up a goal and four assists against the Thrashers, and led the team with 27 penalty minutes in the 10 post-season games.
Avery was the last of New York's restricted free agents to agree to a contract. The Rangers avoided arbitration with Marcel Hossa by signing the forward to a $780,000, one-year deal on Tuesday.