Lightning initiate compliance buyout for Ryan Malone
The Tampa Bay Lightning has initiated the compliance buyout process for veteran wing Ryan Malone, the Times has learned.
Tampa Bay had one more buyout available, having used one on former captain Vinny Lecavalier last summer. A buyout of Malone will save the Lightning a $4.5 million cap hit by spreading two-thirds of his $2.5 milllion salary ($1.67 million) evenly over two years.
Agent Mike Liut said they were certainly expecting the possibility of Malone getting bought out and understood the move.
"With this particular contract and in the role that they had Ryan in if he stayed, I think this was a pretty logical step," Liut said. "He's fine with it. Nobody wants to get bought out of their contract, but it provides him with an opportunity to move on and that's where it was heading anyway, whether it was by trade or in this case, buyout. The end result is him playing hockey somewhere else next year."
The move creates more cap flexibility with free agency period opening on July 1st, and should be helpful for the new six-year, $34.8 million deal for Ryan Callahan, as well as the remaining Lightning restricted free agents.
There were several reasons the Lightning considered buying out Malone, who was heading into the final year of a seven-year, $31.5 million deal. There's his legal issues, with Malone facing one charge of DUI and one charge of cocaine possession stemming from an April arrest in Tampa; he's pleaded not guilty, with his next court date in July.
Liut wouldn't discuss whether Malone is still in a substance abuse program, but said there shouldn't be a grievance from the NHLPA because if the season started today, he believes Malone would be eligible to play. Malone will become an unrestricted free agent.
"He will do whatever is asked of him in an effort to rehabilitate himself and his position in the league," Liut said. "And it's my expectation that he'll be eligible to play. Anyone that's ever played with Ryan knows he's a good guy, and he's a good teammate, good person and good people make mistakes. That's a serious issue and Ryan understands that."
But Malone has also struggled on the ice, hampered by injuries and inconsistency. This season was a disappointment for Malone, who started on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis but ended up on the fourth line and occasionally was a healthy scratch.
"That's not necessarily a knock on Ryan," Liut said. "Organizations are going to have players cycle in and cycle out. They're always looking for young guys and that sometimes happens sooner than you think and sometimes a player develops that you really weren't expecting when you drafted them. When that happens, you've got to make room for everyone."
Malone fractured his right ankle in November blocking a shot and missed 16 games. When he returned, he said "nothing seemed to really click." Malone didn't score in 17 games in a row before being a healthy scratch in four in a row.
A three-time 20-goal scorer with the Lightning, Malone's five goals and 15 points in 57 games were his fewest in a season in which he played at least 50 games. The past two seasons, Malone has appeared in a combined 81 games.