I must admit that I am ordinarily not the wishy-washy sort when it comes to evaluating trades.  Then again, Sean Avery is not your average player.  No, he doesn’t have the talent of a Jaromir Jagr nor does he have the leadership qualities of a Brendan Shanahan.  In simple terms, Sean Avery is a loose cannon.

Everyone has read or head the litany of past actions in reference to Avery’s indiscretions.

  • Derogatory remarks in reference to French players after a 2005 pre-season hit by Denis Gauthier knocked out teammate Jeremy Roenick.
  • Later that season Georges Laraque claimed Avery called him a “monkey”.
  • Suspended by the Kings last season after supposedly refusing to practice and then getting into an argument with former assistant coach Mark Hardy.
  • Was fined by NHL Vice President Colin Campbell because he criticized the league’s Competition Committee following a fine for diving.  Ironically enough, one the players on that Committee is his former Red Wing and current Ranger teammate Brendan Shanahan – who did put in a good word for Avery with president/GM Glen Sather.
  • Of course, there is the “celebrated” youtube.com video of Avery doing pushups on the ice after banking a puck in off the skates of Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

Yes, the 26-year-old Avery has had quite the exciting last couple of years following the NHL lockout.  Not exactly up to the caliber of Ogie Oglethorpe, but enough to warrant some concern over Avery’s antics.

Some pundits are quick to point out that Avery leads the league in penalties drawn this year.  However, that is balanced off by the fact he has led the NHL in penalty minutes the last two seasons and is in the Top 10 this year – not a good sign for a team that has had its share of stupid penalties and struggles at times to kill penalties.

However, it is all of these loose cannon exploits that make Avery a missing piece to the Rangers puzzle.  With the team so dominated by a European flavor and flair, the Blueshirts do not have enough “piss and vinegar” type players.  He adds a tenacity and toughness that is often found lacking on the Rangers.  While he will never be a big-time scorer in the NHL, he has the offensive abilities that a Ryan Hollweg has yet to sure – and as a result – can find time on the second and the third line.

This trade is one of those moves where time will tell if it works out for the Rangers.  On the plus side, he is only 26 and is set to be a free agent at the end of the season.  Unlike the Sandis Ozolnish deal, the Rangers can walk away from any further financial responsibility.  Plus, his $1.1 million salary is much more pleasurable than Ozolnish’s contract.

What Sather, Rangers management and Tom Renney must remember is that Avery is not the final piece to the Rangers puzzle.  Frankly, he does not solve either of the team’s top two problems; a second-line center or a quarterback for the power play.  For the time being, Avery will serve second-line duty because there aren’t any other alternatives – at least any alternatives Messers Sather and Renney are willing to try.  Rangers’ management has to hope that Avery provides a spark until they can fill in the other missing pieces.

It is evident that the Rangers are not going to try and find those pieces in Hartford.  If that were the case, you would see a Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes or Brandon Dubinsky playing with the Rangers to see if they are the answers.  Interestingly enough, whether it is through circumstance or necessity, the Rangers have tried to find in-house remedies to their woes on the blue line.  Both Daniel Girardi and Thomas Pock have gotten chances to show their wares.

Only time and results (or lack thereof) will determine if the Rangers are buyers or sellers as the February 27, 2007 trade deadline approaches.  I do not have a problem with the Rangers trading prospects just as long as it is not another case of sending away prospects for aging veterans.  Losing Marc-Andre Cliché may or may not come back to haunt the Rangers, but at least they acquired a player in his prime, not over it.  The next step is for the Rangers to move some of their other failing pieces (e.g. Adam Hall and Aaron Ward) in exchange for some new pieces of the puzzle.

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