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UFA Option: Sean Avery

Since the retirement of Bryan Marchment, the NHL player I dislike the most is Sean Avery. I like him less than Matt Cooke, Mike Comrie and Chris Pronger all rolled into one. I think he's classless, gutless, cheap, and a distraction to his own team.

All of that said, there's absolutely no argument that he's a very effective hockey player. And I'm not even talking about his overrated ability to get under people's skin (why overrated- because he does the same thing to his teammates. I'd never seen a player cross-checked by his own teammate in a playoff game until I saw Chris Drury give Avery a whack in the NY/NJ series).

Avery ranked 6th among Rangers forwards in icetime, with 13:28 at even strength, 0:50 shorthanded and 1:31 on the powerplay. Avery finished tied with Scott Gomez for the most difficult 5-on-5 minutes this season, and had a spectacular 3.05 GFON/60 and 2.25 GAON/60. He also chipped in 37 points in 55 games, a 55-point pace.

His play on special teams is a different story. A non-factor shorthanded (surprisingly), Avery had the worst GFON/60 vs. GAON/60 of any Rangers powerplay forward, at 4.79 GFON and 1.60 GAON. So, despite his much-decried antics in front of Brodeur in the playoffs, in general Avery is a very poor powerplay option.

RTSS tells us that Avery had 119 hits, a 171-hit pace. He also had a team-low 11 blocked shots. Finally, he also had a 39.3% mark in the faceoff circle.

Avery is looking for a deal in the 3.5M/yr range, while Glen Sather has reportedly offered 2.75M/yr. That isn't a bad salary range, if Avery can keep scoring at a second-line pace, especially against top opponents. One would think, based on his results and salary, that Avery would be a possibility for the Oilers, likely in a tough minutes, third line role. If signed, he would be taking Raffi Torres' job, and would likely be an upgrade.

As much as I'm a fan of his numbers, Avery himself is a player I wouldn't go near, especially with a young, somewhat impressionable team. The diving, the mean-spirited selfishness, the entire package would be a negative influence on a team that has always prided itself on character. Take the Denis Gauthier incident, for one. While playing for Phoenix, Gauthier hit Kings forward Jeremy Roenick in a preseason game, leading to Roenick suffering a concussion. Avery's comments, from after the game:

"I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up."

The next time Phoenix played L.A., Gauthier checked Avery, then took off his visor and dropped the gloves. Avery, as per his m.o., not only refused to fight but scampered off the ice as quick as he could. It wasn't an isolated incident, either- it's the kind of play that really personifies Avery. Despite his success against tough opponents, I fervently hope that Sean Avery is not a player of interest to the Edmonton Oilers.