Avery Is Rangers' Only Option to Salvage Season

If you were in the crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday night, you got to see two NHL franchises heading in opposite directions -- and fast. But while the import of a 10-2 Dallas victory over the New York Rangers was all too clear to the followers of both franchises, it seemed that much of the talk in the following days concerned a player who wasn't even in the building: Sean Avery. ↵

↵When it comes to the Dallas Stars -- a team that is surging toward a playoff spot now that Avery has been removed from their equation forever -- the issue going forward concerns nothing more than payroll and paperwork. If things go as expected, Avery will clear waivers sometime Monday and will be eligible to be assigned to the AHL. In this odd case, because Dallas is currently without an AHL affiliate, the team actually has to find a place for him to play. ↵

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↵Enter the New York Rangers, Avery's last stop in the NHL before his abbreviated stay in Dallas. According to a column by Larry Brooks in Saturday's New York Post, the slumping Rangers are ready to make room for their erstwhile winger with the Hartford Wolfpack. After a couple of weeks of conditioning, the team would presumably claim Avery on recall waivers sometime ahead of the March 4 trade deadline. ↵

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↵There's little question that the Rangers need some sort of boost. Though they're a middling 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, they've lost four straight including Friday night's debacle in Dallas. After starting the season at the top of the standings in the East, the Rangers have gradually fallen through the standings, having been passed by division rivals New Jersey and Philadelphia. ↵

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↵Asking how far the bottom goes for the franchise isn't an idle question. The team is now currently in sixth place, only five points ahead of ninth place Florida, and the Panthers have a game in hand. What's worse, of the team's currently in playoff position in the Eastern Conference, no team has scored fewer goals than the Rangers. In the entire Eastern Conference, the only teams to have demonstrated less offensive punch than this edition of the Rags are Tampa Bay, Atlanta and the New York Islanders. ↵

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↵Were the Rangers a better team last season with Avery in the lineup? The answer to that question was an emphatic yes. The real problem, simply put, was that the team couldn't afford to keep Avery on a roster that added Markus Naslund, Wade Redden and a passel of interchangeable checking forwards to the payroll. But now that New York GM Glen Sather has spent all this cash with the aim of constructing a team designed to go deep into the playoffs, he's running out of options. ↵

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↵In that way, the Rangers are a lot like the Vancouver Canucks. The money has been spent, and the players -- and their massive contracts -- are in place. At this point and for the foreseeable future, rebuilding isn't an option for the Rangers. Either they make the playoffs with the players they have or they don't. And if they don't, heads will undoubtedly roll. ↵

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↵In light of that information, I can understand why the Rangers would break the glass and reach for Avery. But let's not pretend that it's a good option. Rather, it's just the only option available with time running down on the season. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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