So today is the day Sean Avery presumably clears waivers and will be assigned to an AHL affiliate of some sort. As you all know, the Wolfpack seem to be the front (and only) runners to pick-up the agitator, which will begin the chain of events that may ultimately end in #16 returning to the Big Club. While my colleague David is mainly opposed to this, I could not be more in favor of this move. My man-crush for Sean Avery and his legend aside, it is a necessary move for THIS team THIS season. Here’s how it could work, and here’s why it has to work:
1. There have been few cold-hard undeniable facts for these Rangers in the post-lockout era. These include (but are not limited to): a) Henrik Lundqvist being a top-5 goaltender in the league b) Tom Renney sacrificing offense for defense 99% of the time c) the Rangers are a better team with Sean Avery in their lineup. The statistics do not lie: with Avery in the lineup, the Rangers are 51-23-16. Without him, they are 8-10-3, not to mention the Rangers missing that extra “something.” Just watch a game this season and you will know what I’m talking about.
2. The Rangers do not have to resign all those players previously mentioned. If this season has proved anything, its that the majority of Rangers are expendable (Scott Gomez and Chris Drury trade rumors anyone). The only members of the group previously mentioned that must be re-signed are Big Z, Dubie, Staal, and Girardi. While I like Dawes, Korpo, and Cally, you can find another other young player in the farm-system to come in and play their role.
3. The Rangers would only be on the take for half of Avery’s salary, roughly $2 million per year. When you consider this is only a minor raise from what he was initially getting with the Rangers and a cut from what they wanted to give him in the offseason, its an acceptable number. If the Rangers choose to re-negotiate his contract, either for less years or less money, they have a distinct negotiating advantage. Not many teams will take Avery at this point, and he probably realizes that and history shows this can be a productive marriage. Put whatever clauses and incentives you want into the contract. They will have the upper-hand in any contract talk they engage in. So saving money against the cap won’t necessarily be that difficult. They can also unload either Redden or Roszival in this deal. While their contracts are long and fat, that’s the price you must pay for giving top-tier money for 2 players that are obviously not top-tier and bring very little to the team. Those contracts are going to haunt the Rangers one way or another; better haunt them in an effort to make the team genuinely better. Also, the salary cap will predictably go up, so the value of Avery’s cap hit will be decreased.
4. The Rangers are vanilla. As evidenced on Friday night, nobody respects this team. You can do whatever you wish to them, and will pay virtually no consequences. Say what you want about Avery in the locker room, but he always came to his teammate’s defense on the ice, and as an opponent, you probably always thought twice about engaging in something with one of the Rangers for plain-old fear of what Avery might say or do to you. And if he has made the progress in his rehab everybody says he’s making, he will learn to channel his tactics in a productive manner. He has also hopefully learn from the past mistakes he made in NY.
5. Avery has skills. He has better than average speed, a quick release, is tough and gritty, and can throw off a opposing team’s star player on any given night (see Brodeur, Martin; Kovalchuk, Ilya). Enough of this Aaron Voros “poor-man’s Sean Avery” garbage and just go get the real thing. He also puts it on the line every single night, evidenced by playing the majority of a playoff game with a lacerated spleen. I work in medicine, and that is something that can kill you.
6. Fans (myself immensely included) love this guy. Since the lockout, you can count on one hand the number of players that get their name chanted during a game at the Garden: Henrik, Shanny, whoever is getting their jersey retired that year, and Avery. Maybe I’m missing a name here or there, but you get my drift.