Forward Sean Avery was eligible to return to practice with the Dallas Stars Sunday but instead was told he is no longer welcome.
The National Hockey League team parted ways with the outspoken Avery, whose six-game suspension for inappropriate behaviour ended following a 3-0 loss to Nashville on Saturday night.
"All parties said there is a clear understanding that a return to the Stars is not in the best interest of either the hockey club or Avery," the Stars said in a news release.
The team also noted it would continue to support Avery during this "critical time."
"The message here is: no distractions," Stars co-general manager Brett Hull said in a statement. "Sean can focus on resolving his personal issues and the Stars will have closure on this episode. The team needs to put its energies into winning."
Hull and Avery were once teammates with the Detroit Red Wings and the former was integral in bringing Avery to Dallas over the summer.
"I thought [Sean] could bring a little bit of a change in our locker-room and on the ice which I thought was missing," Hull said later in a conference call. "Obviously, it went overboard and didn't work out."
Hull added the entire Avery situation could be summed up as simply a player not wanting to follow team rules.
"I honestly believe the issues that Sean had … were kind of brought on by himself," he said. "It's a two-way street. Sure, you have to be accepted but you have to do everything you can to be accepted as well. It was just a bad situation."
Details of Avery's departure from Dallas still must be worked out, but the team has three choices:
- Place him on waivers and send him to a European league or the minors, likely an American Hockey League team. But to assign Avery to a European club, the Stars would need his permission.
- Put him on waivers, send him to the minors and bring him back on re-entry waivers.
- Send him to the minors for the balance of the NHL season and on July 1, put him on waivers for the purpose of buying two-thirds of his remaining contract at double the term.
A trade seems unlikely, given the 28-year-old Avery would come with baggage and is owed $3.8 million over the next three seasons. Dallas said it would not challenge the conduct clause in Avery's guaranteed four-year, $15.5-million US contract signed in the summer.
The NHL threw the book at him on Dec. 5, barring Avery six games, without pay, for comments made during Dallas' recent visit to Calgary.
At the time of his six-game suspension, Avery agreed to seek a professional anger management evaluation, and, if necessary, structured counselling in response to what the league says is a pattern of unacceptable and antisocial behaviour.
To explore options
The Stars said they will explore any options for Avery's future that are consistent with the anger management counselling he's receiving.
Hull said Avery is in a 10-day, voluntary program that could be extended if counsellors determine he needs a longer stay.
Avery's agent and publicist did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
"We don't want to ruin Sean or his career. We want him to get better," Hull said. "The team needs to move on and start winning and he needs to take care of himself. As a hockey player, I think there's no question he can be an asset.
"That said, he's got to fix the demons he has. It becomes such a huge distraction that it almost takes away from his ability to play the game."
Avery, a Toronto-area native, was initially suspended two days earlier, pending a hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, after distasteful remarks made to reporters. Among other things, Avery said he couldn't understand why NHL players keep falling in love with his former girlfriends.
Avery's comment, made prior to the Stars' 3-1 win over the Flames on Dec. 2, was directed toward Calgary defenceman Dion Phaneuf and his girlfriend, Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert, who at one time dated Avery.
Avery also once dated Auckland-born model and actress Rachel Hunter, the current girlfriend of Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll.
One thing that became fairly clear after Avery made his comments on Dec. 2 was that he had lost the faith of the organization. Stars owner Tom Hicks called him a "troubled young man" while head coach Dave Tippett and several players made it clear they didn't want him back in the dressing room.
Avery was eligible to return for Dallas' game against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
The Stars were Avery's fourth NHL team and at least the second where things ended badly. The Los Angeles Kings sent him home midway through the 2006-07 season before trading him to the New York Rangers.
Dallas makes more moves
Also Sunday, Dallas acquired forward Brian Sutherby from the Anaheim Ducks for U.S. college player David McIntyre and a conditional 2010 sixth-round draft pick.
The club also re-assigned defenceman Dan Jancevski to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.
Sutherby had three goals and three assists with Anaheim this season. The six-foot-three, 209-pound centre has appeared in 321 career NHL games with Washington and Anaheim, recording 68 points (29 goals, 39 assists).
McIntyre is competing in his junior season at Colgate University of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. The five-foot-11, 190-pound forward has a team-leading 12 points in 14 games.