After two consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman has some tough decisions to make in the upcoming off-season. Not the least of which is what to do with fan favorite Ryan Malone.
“Bugsy” as he is affectionately referred to, has two more years left on a contract with a yearly cap hit of $4,500,000. The nine year veteran has a “No Trade” clause in 2013-14 which states that he can submit a 12 team list of teams he would agree to go to if Tampa Bay wanted to move him. (Photo/Susan Ferlita)
Yzerman could try and trade Malone for some much needed defensive help, but that may prove difficult to do because of Malone’s injury history. The power forward has missed 89 games in his five years with the Bolts, including 24 of the 48 games this season.
The Lightning GM could buyout Malone. According to CapGeek.com, it would save the Lightning $1,666,667 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and $833,333 in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Of course, the other option is to keep Malone and hope he remains healthy. One thing for certain is that a healthy Bugsy will give TampaBay some very good numbers, accompanied with a physical presence. When the Lightning forward has played 68 games or more during his career, he has averaged 23 goals, 47 points and 80 penalty minutes.
The numbers don’t lie. Malone has not measured up to his pre-Lightning statistics. In the year prior to coming to Tampa Bay (2007-08), he set personal bests in goals (27), points (51), rating (+14), penalty minutes (103), power play goals (11) and average time on ice (19:05).
On the other hand, don’t believe the skeptics when they say Malone’s numbers are trending downward. Arguably, the Pittsburgh native’s overall best season with the Bolts was last season, when he accumulated 20 goals, 28 assists, 48 points and 82 penalty minutes in 68 games.
By all accounts, Malone is a great teammate and a leader in the locker room, attributes not to be taken lightly, especially with a new coach and many young teammates.
In the final analysis, the buyout is the least attractive option. It is too expensive and there’s not enough of a savings to make it worthwhile. Trading him is a solid option, but only if the player(s) brought in can help the Bolts now. Yzerman should opt to keep Malone and hope that he stays healthy for most of next season.
About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?