Ever since the news broke that Sean Avery cleared the waiver wire and is now on the roster for the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League, I've been trying to envision scenarios in which Avery might return to the NHL this season for a team other than the New York Rangers.
I can't think of any such scenario. Here are the main reasons I believe Avery won't be seen again this year in the National Hockey League:
Salary cap hit: Under his current contract, which has one year remaining, Avery is set to make $4 million. Any team that picked him up via a trade would have to absorb that cap hit. That automatically eliminates half the teams in the league, who have less than $4 million in cap space left to spend. Of the remaining teams, each has a far more glaring needs than a Sean Avery type of player. There are much better trade options out there for a that kind of price tag.
Trade value: Avery's career of late has been one of diminishing returns. His decrease in offensive production, coupled with his typical off ice drama, doesn't make him a particularly appealing addition to any team. Let's be honest: if he cleared waivers without any teams picking him up, it is far less likely that a team will sacrifice a valuable draft pick or prospect to bring him over. A one-for-one trade involving a player of similar value could be an option, but Avery's cap hit limits those possibilities significantly.
I do believe that Sean Avery's NHL days aren't yet finished. We'll see him return to the league in a year or two with a much slimmer contract. Still, any team that shows interest in him has to be aware that he brings destructive tendencies and distractions into a locker room.
Sean Avery is increasingly a liability whose downside far outweighs his upside. He'll have a tough hill to climb to prove that he can be a valuable addition to an NHL club.