Monday, July 30, 2007

Habs, Ducks and the Quintessential Pest


The Habs were able to narrowly avoid arbitration with Michael Ryder by signing him to a one-year deal worth $2.95 million just one day before his hearing was scheduled. The 27 year-old winger scored 30 goals and added 28 assists in 82 games last season with an abysmal -25 plus/minus rating. It was his second season in a row scoring 30 goals.

The Ducks

Just a quick update on the offer sheet that the Edmonton Oilers signed Dustin Penner to last week. Burke and the Ducks will have until Thursday, one week from when the offer was given, to decide whether or not they will match the inflated deal. Either way, no one will be happy.

A Pest's Arbitration Day

I actually use the word "pest" in a complimentary way. Every hockey team has to have a pest. In many ways, they are the spark plug of the NHL team. However, very few of these players have the skills to benefit their team in ways outside of irritating opposing players, which is why the salary cap has killed off a lot of these role players. When a player can function as a pest but also help the team in other ways, you have a rare combination that should be valued in the new NHL. The Rangers experienced this firsthand when they acquired Sean Avery at the deadline from the LA Kings. Avery, known for his big hits and even bigger mouth, played a huge role in the Rangers success throughout the playoffs. He often spent time on the top line with Jagr and showed the ability to play in any role or situation. In fact, being a Ranger ignited Avery as he scored 20 points, including 8 goals, in only 29 games with the blue shirts. In the 55 games prior to the trade, Avery only put up 28 points. Avery also ignited New York as they went 17-6-6 with him in the lineup.

His success prompted the 27 year-old restricted free agent to file for arbitration against the cap-stricken Rangers. With his hearing set for today, Avery should be in for a decent raise over his $1.1 million from last season. However, New York's GM is seeing it differently. The NY Post ran an article Sunday morning that included statements to be made in the arbitration hearing, including one that says Avery is "a reasonably effective player as well as a detriment to the team." A detriment to the team? He averages almost a point-per-game and the team only loses 6 games out of 29 with him in the lineup and he's a detriment? Avery responded with less emotion than would be expected of a player known for troublesome outbursts when he said "It's hard not to take something like that personally and not to be emotional about it. I know this is part of the business, I know this is part of the process, but it's extremely disappointing to read something like that coming from Slats [GM Glen Sather] and not to be offended by it. I certainly don't think I was a detriment to the team."

Personally, I hope this means that Avery won't be playing for the Rangers next season. If you listen closely you can hear saliva slapping the floor as a number of teams salivate over the prospect of the Rangers not agreeing to the arbitrators ruling. Teams like the Penguins and the Sabres showed a desperate need for someone with Avery's unique skill set in the playoffs and even in the regular season. He's exactly the kind of player that no one wants to play against and everyone wants a teammate. Avery is an emotional player and if he does end up playing elsewhere, his first game back in New York or against the Ranger will certainly be a good one. We'll know the outcome within 24 hours.

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