After an apparent acrimonious arbitration hearing on Monday, the Rangers have elected to accept today’s ruling for a $1.9 million one year contract to bring Sean Avery back into the fold. The signing means the Rangers have only one restricted free agent left unsigned, and it appears at this stage that Jarkko Immonen will not return to North America.
The signing puts the Rangers at approximately the $48 million mark excluding $2.8 million in bonuses that Brendan Shanahan is expected to gain this year if the Rangers make the playoffs and he plays more than ten games.
Avery, who was seeking $2.6 million, is coming off a season in which he recorded career highs for goals (18), assists (30) and points (48) with both the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. The Rangers acquired Avery in exchange for Jason Ward and two prospects (Jan Marek and Marc-Andre Cliche), though the Rangers did end up surrendering a 3rd round draft pick in next year’s draft, when the Kings were unable to sign Marek to a contract.
The arrival of the agitating forward was seen by many as a catalyst for turning the season around. Within days of his joining the team, the Rangers went on a run that propelled them from 11th in the East to the 6th spot. Avery also contributed during the Rangers’ first round sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers, though he was largely ineffectual in the series loss to Buffalo.
The 27 year old forward’s versatility gives the Rangers some options at wing and center, though he did have some success playing alongside Brendan Shanahan last season. Another option would be to move him to the third line to replace the departed Matt Cullen.
With just a one year contract, Avery is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, though another strong performance could earn him a contract offer early in the new year.