RANGERS

Travel deals

An arbitrator in Toronto will decide as early as today

whether Sean Avery deserves a substantial raise from the Rangers.

Representatives for the rambunctious Avery and Rangers executives presented

their cases at a hearing yesterday. Avery came to New York in a Feb. 5 trade

with the Kings for Jason Ward and provided the Rangers with a much-needed edge

in the final 29 games of the regular season. Avery, 27, is a restricted free

agent who earned $1.1 million last season and sought $2.6 million for the

coming season. The Rangers reportedly offered $1.3 million, so Avery opted for

arbitration.

The left wing scored eight goals and added 12 assists and 58 penalty

minutes. With his in-your-face style he quickly became a Madison Square Garden

favorite as the team went 17-6-6 en route to the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the

season, Avery posted a career-high 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists).

Avery and coach Tom Renney were warned by referees to limit Avery's verbal

goading of opponents. And although Avery generally was circumspect in his

off-ice comments, he did say he wanted "to hurt" the Sabres prior to the

six-game Eastern Conference quarterfinals, during which he was scoreless and

ineffective.

The arbitrator has until tomorrow evening to rule, and then the Rangers

have 48 hours to accept or decline the award, generally a one-year contract. If

they don't accept - which appears unlikely unless the award is more than $2

million - Avery would become an unrestricted free agent.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist avoided arbitration by agreeing to a

one-year, $4.5-million contract. The only other Ranger facing arbitration is

left wing Marcel Hossa, whose hearing is set for Thursday.

Islanders right wing Trent Hunter, who earned $1 million last year, has an

arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow, but indications are that Hunter,

27, who scored 20 goals and added 15 assists in 77 games, and the team will

agree on a new pact before the hearing.

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