NHL rumors: Lightning may buy out Ryan Malone

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Ryan Malone's days in Tampa are likely over as he faces a possible buyout. (USATSI)
Ryan Malone's days in Tampa are likely over as he faces a possible buyout. (USATSI)

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have one compliance buyout remaining after using the first one on Vincent Lecavalier last summer. If they use this year's, the most likely candidate to be bought out is oft-injured Ryan Malone .

On top of injury concerns, the 34-year-old is also dealing with legal issues stemming from an April arrest for cocaine possession and driving under the influence. Malone is due to appear in court Monday in Tampa according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

More from the Times:

Neither Malone, 34, nor his agent, would comment, but he realizes he's a candidate [for a buyout].

And Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, speaking in general about Malone, didn't discount any possibility

"Obviously injuries he's had, some serious injuries over the past three, four years since I've been with the organization, have limited the number of games that he could play," Yzerman said. "It does take its toll on a player. We're taking everything into consideration for the offseason in improving our team and we're looking at all different (options), whether it be the draft, free agency, trades, buyouts. We'll take it all into consideration."

That's not exactly a vote of confidence from the GM.

Malone has just one year remaining on his seven-year, $31.5 million deal. It comes with a $4.5 million cap hit, which is not ideal for a player who was demoted to the fourth line and often found himself a healthy scratch late in the season.

Malone had just 15 points in 57 games last season, which is stunningly low for a six-time 20-goal scorer. He did battle through injury including a broken ankle earlier in the year, however.

With his play in decline and his legal troubles looming, as well as the health concerns that come along with those drug charges, it seems likely Malone's days in Tampa are numbered. Malone did participate in the NHL's substance abuse and behavioral health program, but that is not believed to adversely affect the Lightning's ability to buy him out.

The club still has a few restricted free agents to get under new contracts like Richard Panik, Alex Killorn, Andrej Sustr and J.T. Brown and they've also been vocal about their desire to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent forward Ryan Callahan .

Freeing up that cap space by buying out Malone seems like it would be a fairly easy decision at this point.

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