So will the Rangers claiming Mark Bell off re-entry waivers today impact their ability/desire to take back Sean Avery if the Dallas Stars expose him to re-entry waivers? Or was Bell claimed with the intention of sending him to Hartford (AHL), where he'll be a (temporary) teammate of Avery?
There are similarities between the two. Both are 28-year-old left wings. And both have checkered pasts. Avery's, obviously, has been well-chronicled here in New York and he's attempting an NHL comeback with the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford after league suspended him for six games in December for comments they considered offensive regarding his ex-girlfriend (we all know what he said).
Bell, the eighth overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, was arrested in San Jose in 2006 for an alleged hit-and-run while driving under the influence. Bell pleaded no contest and served his punishment working in a California jail this past summer. He was also suspended for 15 games by the NHL and placed in Stage 2 of the league's substance absue program.
Bell certainly comes at a much cheaper price than Avery would. Bell is in the final year of a three-year, $6.5 million deal that pays him $2.5 million this season. He's spent the season with the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate in Toronto. So he's owed approximately $640,243 for the rest of the season, with the Rangers and Maple Leafs splitting that amount. And that would only count against the Rangers' salary cap if he's on their NHL roster.
Avery is in the first year of a four-year, $15.5 million deal with a limited movement clause. So while the Rangers would only be locked into Bell for the rest of this season, they'd be tied to Avery for another three.
One possibility - and this news broke after the Rangers left the Air Canada Centre so we won't have a chance to ask new coach John Tortorella about it until later today - but the Rangers may have determined that Avery just isn't ready to play in the NHL and won't be before the March 4 deadline. So they pulled the trigger on Bell, who has 87 goals, 95 assists and 597 penalty minutes in 445 NHL games. With both players with the Wolf Pack, the Rangers can judge one against the other as to who's ready to contribute to the team's postseason push.