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Rangers claim Avery from Stars

Tuesday, 03.03.2009 / 2:04 PM / News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Sean Avery is back for a Broadway revival.

The New York Rangers put in a claim for the buzz-worthy forward Tuesday and since no team below them in the standings did so by the noon ET deadline, the Blueshirts got their man and the rest of his four-year, $15.5 million contract at half the price. Dallas is on the hook for the other half, roughly $1.9 million per over the next three seasons.

Avery, who had been playing with the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford, is likely going to practice with the Rangers Wednesday morning and could suit up for their game Thursday night on Long Island against the New York Islanders.

Avery hasn't played an NHL game since Nov. 30. Avery was suspended for six games and ordered to receive anger-management counseling by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman following vulgar and unsolicited on-camera remarks he made in Calgary on Dec. 2.

"I think it'll be great," Rangers captain Chris Drury told reporters. "The only two things I need to know and I think the other guys in this room need to know are: One, he wants to be here, wants to be a Ranger. And, second, he wants to win a Stanley Cup. What more could you ask for of a teammate?"

New York fit Avery like a glove in his first stint with the Rangers, who got him from Los Angeles in a trade on Feb. 5, 2007. His agitating ways gave the Rangers energy. He had 23 goals, 30 assists and 212 penalty minutes in 86 games spread across two seasons.

But the team he returns to has quite a different look than the one he left. Most notably, the Rangers recently changed head coaches, replacing the easygoing and player-friendly Tom Renney with the brutally honest and tough-minded John Tortorella, who may already have a conflict with Avery.

As an analyst on TSN when Avery made comments in Calgary, Tortorella said Avery had no business being in the NHL. Now, Tortorella appears ready to give Avery a second chance.

"I coach this situation just like (with) every other player," Tortorella told reporters at the Rangers' practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. Tuesday afternoon. "I believe in team concept. I believe in a team helping one another and not stepping out, hurting a team concept. To me, that's the way I'm going to approach this situation. I know there's going to be a lot of people want(ing) information and turn this into a bigger thing. Sean Avery is a player coming into the New York Rangers organization. We want him to fit in and play under a team concept. If he does that we feel he can be effective.

"He's a player like any other player we might pick up in the next day or so," the coach continued. "My role is to teach him. To me it's easy because I'm doing the same thing with these guys. Sean's just five or six days behind, as far as with me."

The players are ready to let bygones be bygones as well.

"We already turned the page here with the new coaching staff and we played a lot better the last three games. He's going to be one of 20 guys and have to bring something to the table," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said according to Newsday. "We'll see. It's hard to say now. He brings a lot of energy. He plays with passion every night. He's a really good hockey player when he focuses on the game.

"Whoever comes into this room is going to have to adjust to the people who are here and to the system."

Drury doesn't think Avery will have any trouble fitting into Tortorella's "Safe is death" system. It's vastly different from Renney's defense-first approach.

"I think he's going to love it," Drury said. "No question he's an in-your-face, up tempo player, always moving his feet, finishing checks. I think he's going to thrive in it."

The Rangers and Avery parted ways over the summer due to conflicts in contract negotiations. At the urging of co-General Manager Brett Hull, Dallas signed Avery to a contract on July 2, 2008. As a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings in 2001-02, Avery lived with Hull for a short while and the 700-goal scorer went to bat for the feisty winger turned Vogue intern.

"I believe in team concept. I believe in a team helping one another and not stepping out, hurting a team concept. To me, that's the way I'm going to approach this situation. I know there's going to be a lot of people want(ing) information and turn this into a bigger thing. Sean Avery is a player coming into the New York Rangers organization. We want him to fit in and play under a team concept. If he does that we feel he can be effective." -- John Tortorella

Avery, though, played only 23 games in a Stars' uniform with 10 points and 77 penalty minutes. He never meshed with his new teammates and after some unfiltered on-camera comments he made to reporters in Calgary he was susupended by Bettman.

The NHL reinstated Avery early last month. He was initially waived by Dallas on Feb. 7 and cleared two days later. Dallas and the Rangers agreed he could join the Hartford Wolf Pack on Feb. 10. It was the first public sign of the Rangers' renewed interest in him.

With the trade deadline approach, the Stars called Avery up on Monday, subjecting him to re-entry waivers for 24 hours. Any team could claim him and the one lowest in the standings would get him. It's unknown if any team ahead of the Rangers in the standings put in a claim for Avery.

"You can't give up on people," Tortorella said. "It still may not work out in certain situations, but I still think (until) players mature, we just don't have a handle on that. If we knew when players were going to mature mentally, then it wouldn't be any fun as we go through here because we'd have all the answers."

Tortorella said he was unsure where Avery fit into the Rangers' lineup that he's still just getting to know. However, he senses the team could use someone like Avery.

"We feel, especially in the division, we need a little more jam on our team," Tortorella said. "Hopefully (Avery) can kick in a couple of goals. When he's concentrating on playing under a team concept, he's an effective player. That's what we're looking for. He's really tried to help himself and Glen believes in second chances. I think he's done his homework here and we'll see where it goes."

Ranger waive pair -- According to various reports, the Rangers also placed forward Aaron Voros and injured defenseman Eric Reitz on waivers Tuesday, sending a message that perhaps they have another transaction in the works. Voros signed a three-year contract with the club over the summer and Reitz, a restricted free agent after the season, was acquired in a trade with Minnesota on Jan. 29.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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