After signing a four-year, $15 million deal as a free agent in the offseason, Avery's time is up in Dallas, as the team announced on Sunday morning he will not return to the club. The decision comes one day after Avery was eligible to come back after serving a six-game suspension handed him by the league following disparaging comments made toward Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Avery's ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert prior to the game against the Flames on Dec. 2.
Avery is currently undergoing counseling to help deal with personal issues, and the Stars will continue to assist him with his treatment during what the team described as a "critical time" for the player.
"We understand that Sean has problems and we understand that people are human," co-general manager Brett Hull said Sunday. "We don't want to ruin Sean or his career. We want him to get better, but we needed to obviously part ways with Sean. It's amicable. The Stars need to move on, the team needs to move on and start winning on a more consistent basis, and he needs to take care of himself so that when he is done (with his counseling) he can continue playing hockey. Straight from (owner) Tom Hicks is that he hasn't done anything heinous enough where his career should end. We just want to make sure that everyone was taken care of and he was given the opportunity to play hockey when this was all said and done."
The Stars will honor Avery's contract while exploring all of their options for his future. Those options include assigning him to the minor leagues or a European league, trading him, or buying him out per the collective bargaining agreement.
The Stars would owe Avery his entire salary if he's sent to the minors, or two-thirds of the three remaining years on his contract (roughly $8 million) if they choose to buy him out this summer.
"First things first is he has to get out of the treatment that he is doing, and we have no idea how long that is going to take," Hull said. "During that time Les (Jackson) and I and the organization will be looking into those options. But there's no sense talking about it until he does get better because at this point until people know he's taken care of his problems, I can imagine it's a little bit of a high risk. Right know there isn't a lot of (trade value) because he's not a player."
Club officials, including Hicks, Hull, co-GM Jackson and team president Jeff Cogan met in downtown Dallas on Wednesday to discuss Avery's future with the team. The foursome also collected input from the players as well before making an organizational decision to move on.
Following the incident in Calgary, Mike Modano and Marty Turco, as well as head coach Dave Tippett, indicated that Avery's future presence in the locker room would likely not make for a healthy environment.
"We have nothing but the utmost respect for our leadership group, coach Tippett and his staff," Hull said. "Their voice and what they believed to be a successful dressing room is something we have a lot of respect for. The decision we made came from us, but their voice was also heard loud and clear."
Perhaps Avery's most memorable day as a Star came in his return to New York City in October to play against his former team, the Rangers. Dallas played one of its best games of the year in a 2-1 win, with a much-appreciative Avery glowing afterwards in the halls of Madison Square Garden. But his penchant for stirring things up off the ice proved to be his downfall.
Avery added to his reputation as being the league's biggest agitator and pest when he exchanged words with fans following a loss in Boston before dropping his dooming comments in the Stars locker room in Calgary. Brought in to help give the Stars some spice, Avery wound up going over the line in Alberta.
The 28-year-old, playing for his fourth team in eight seasons, finishes his short-lived career with the Stars with three goals, 10 points and 77 penalty minutes in 23 games.
"If he didn't do what he did and he didn't do all the off-ice stuff this wouldn't have happened because he was playing fine on the ice," Hull said. "He worked hard, he never missed a game, and he never missed a practice. There was no issue with him on the ice any more than there was with anyone else on our team. It was the off-ice stuff that really was the problem. We brought him in as a hockey player and he obviously didn't understand that besides being a hockey player there's a code of conduct that not only the NHL but the Dallas Stars have in place. He was unable to follow that."
Hull also faced up to any criticism levied at him for the signing of Avery. Hull was the point man and instrumental in bringing Avery aboard, but was the first to say it ended up being a misstep.
"There's a lot of teams that have made mistakes," Hull said. "Most teams in the NHL have had troubles one way or another, whether it's buy-outs or what not. We brought Sean in because we thought he could help us on the ice. We knew there was going to be bumps in the road, but I also thought that he could bring a little bit of a change in our locker room and on the ice, which I thought might have been missing a little bit. Obviously it went a little bit overboard and it didn't work out. Working with Les, we're going to continue to do things that we think can help bring a championship to Dallas. Unfortunately this one didn't work out. All I can do is keep doing what I'm doing and try the best I can to help us win. I love the Dallas Stars and this organization."