In a move that was seen coming from a mile away, the Lightning are getting out from under the final season of Malone's contract, which was going to cost them $4.5 million against the salary cap. Now they will still pay him 2/3 of his salary but because of the compliance buyout, it won't be any cost to their cap.
The reasons to buy out Malone were plentiful. For starters, the Pittsburgh native saw his numbers pretty much fall off a cliff this season. He had 20 goals and 28 assists in 2011-12 but saw his numbers dip to five goals and 10 assists in 57 games for the Lightning with his time on ice plummeting to just 11:47 per game.
There was also the issue of fitness. Malone has had a hard time staying on the ice for a variety of reasons. In his six years with the Lightning he never played more 70 games in a season or more.
Lastly is the fact that Malone, 34, finds himself in some legal hot water. He was arrested in early April on charges of DUI and cocaine possession. He has pled not guilty to the charges but that didn't make his future much clearer.
This move doesn't come from out of left field. GM Steve Yzerman had talked about using the buyout on Malone already.
"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."
Now Malone becomes an unrestricted free agent but it won't be a surprise if there's not a whole lot of interest in the Pittsburgh native.
The Lightning used their first compliance buyout last summer on Vincent Lecavalier.