Rangers take Avery off waivers

NEW YORK -- Bad boy Sean Avery is back with the New York Rangers.

The Rangers claimed the controversial forward off re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday in a move that was weeks in the making.

For Avery, this might be his last chance to resurrect his NHL career. He could be in the lineup as soon as Thursday on the road -- against the rival New York Islanders.

Avery spent the past month with the Rangers' Hartford AHL affiliate while remaining property of the Stars. He hasn't played in the NHL since he was suspended in December for making a crude remark about other hockey players dating his former girlfriends.

Avery served a six-game ban and completed treatment in a league counseling program, but the Stars made it clear he would never play for them again.

Dallas doesn't have an AHL affiliate, so Rangers general manager Glen Sather facilitated his move to Hartford. He was assigned there after all NHL teams passed on him during a first set of waivers.

"He's really tried to help himself, and Glen believes in second chances," said new Rangers coach John Tortorella, who has been critical of Avery. "I think he's done his homework here and we'll see where it goes."

The Rangers will be responsible for half of the money remaining on Avery's contract, which runs through the next three seasons with a salary cap hit of more than $3.8 million a year.

"I think it'll be great," Rangers captain Chris Drury said Tuesday. "The only two things I need to know and I think the other guys in this room need to know, is that he wants to be here and wants to be a Ranger, loves wearing our jersey and loves living in New York; and secondly, that he wants to win a Stanley Cup.

"What else could you ask for in a teammate?"

Avery left the Rangers after last year's playoffs for a four-year deal worth $15.5 million with the Stars, who will pay the other half of the contract.

Avery had three goals and seven assists in 23 games for Dallas before being suspended by the NHL on Dec. 2 for comments he made hours before the Stars' road game against the Calgary Flames.

When he was suspended, Avery, 28, told the Stars he needed help dealing with his anger. He completed a counseling program under the auspices of the league and the NHL Players' Association before being placed on Dallas' active roster for the purpose of being waived.

In six games after being sent to Hartford on Feb. 10, the noted agitator had two goals and one assist.

Avery spent the previous 1½ NHL seasons with the Rangers, and gave them an instant boost when he first arrived in a trade from Los Angeles in February 2007.

The Rangers advanced to the second round of the playoffs in both seasons Avery was on the team. Last season, he had 15 goals and 18 assists in 57 games, and was second on the club in penalty minutes (154).

Avery's first stint with New York ended following Game 3 of a second-round series against Pittsburgh last year when he was hospitalized for several days with a lacerated spleen. He then signed with the Stars in the summer.

The Rangers have changed coaches since Avery last suited up for them. Tom Renney was fired last week and replaced by Tortorella, who, while working for Canadian television, rebuked Avery at the time of his suspension.

"Enough is enough," Tortorella said then. "He's embarrassed himself, he's embarrassed the [Stars'] organization, he's embarrassed the league and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn't belong in the league."

When Sather introduced his new coach, he said he expected Tortorella to be on board should Avery return. After practice Tuesday, Tortorella began to see Avery's potential.

"We need a little more jam on our team," Tortorella said. "I haven't coached Sean, I want to see what he's all about. I've seen him play. When he's concentrating on playing under a team concept, he's an effective player. That's what we're looking for."

To make room for Avery on the roster and under the salary cap, the Rangers sent forward Mark Bell to Hartford on Monday.