NEW YORK, N.Y. - Sean Avery's career with the New York Rangers appears to be over.
The Rangers placed the veteran winger on waivers Friday before their 4-1 win at Florida, giving themselves the option to assign him to the American Hockey League's Connecticut Whale if he goes unclaimed by 12 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Avery's latest demotion wasn't the result of the bad behaviour that has plagued him in the past. Instead, he struggled to work his way into coach John Tortorella's lineup on a Rangers team hovering around the top of the Eastern Conference.
The 31-year-old started the season in the AHL after failing to make the Rangers out of training camp and was recalled on Nov. 1. He amassed three goals and 21 penalty minutes in 15 games.
The roster move comes at a time when the Rangers appear close to welcoming forward Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia) and defenceman Marc Staal (concussion) back into the lineup.
"We're getting healthier," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "This team is getting healthier, so it comes down to a numbers game."
It also means Avery won't be part of the Winter Classic, which will see the Rangers face the Flyers at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2.
"Sean's a good friend," Brandon Prust said. "It's sad to see him go, but those are decisions that are out of our hands. Obviously we hope he does well and he's going to keep working hard and try to get back up here."
Avery had been a healthy scratch for nine straight games since last appearing on Dec. 10.
If he goes unclaimed and is sent to the minors, his most likely route back to the NHL would be as a free agent. Avery's US$15.5-million, four-year contract expires on July 1.
??? With files from The Associated Press.