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Fleury's options: Rangers or Europe news services

Theo Fleury has an option if the New York Rangers don't pick up the option on his lofty contract.

Theo Fleury

The winger said he will quit the NHL and play in Europe if he cannot work out a deal to remain with the Rangers, according to a report in The Star-Ledger on Wednesday.

The Rangers hold a $7 million option on Fleury's contract, but he said he is willing to accept a lower salary if he can stay with New York.

"It's either here or Europe. I'd just have to make a phone call," Fleury told The Star-Ledger. "You just pick a place and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to have you." Rangers general manager Glen Sather was surprised to hear of Fleury's plans.

"I don't know, I really don't. I suppose you can do that. That's always an option that everyone has," Sather told the newspaper.

Sather will hold individual meetings with his players, scouts and coaching staff before he begins the process of putting next season's team together.

Fleury, who turns 34 in June, might be welcome in Phoenix under friend Wayne Gretzky. Fleury would also be closer to his sponsor, who lives in New Mexico and who has helped Fleury remain sober for more than a year while under the care of the NHL's substance-abuse program. Fleury plans on returning to his home in New Mexico once the season is over.

But Fleury said he would not be interested in talking to Gretzky -- or any other NHL team.

"I want to play here, and if I can't play here, I just don't feel like playing anywhere else," he told the paper. "I don't play for the money. I like playing over there (in Europe). It's always been something that I'd like to do."

Fleury played in Tappara, Finland, during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, and in 10 games with that club, he had eight goals and nine assists.

Fleury's frustration with issues in his public and personal life mounted this season. Fans in other cities, and sometimes players, taunted him about his history of substance abuse, and he had trouble walking away from that. His temper got the best of him on several occasions, at times costing his team.

"I want to be happy. That's the most important thing," Fleury told The Star-Ledger. "I'm not saying my kids aren't important to me, but if I'm not happy and I'm not sane, it doesn't really matter."

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