Ryan Malone, we hardly knew you.
The Upper St. Clair native came to the Penguins known mostly for being the son of former Penguins forward Greg Malone. He leaves as arguably the team's best power forward since Kevin Stevens or Rick Tocchet in the early 1990s.
Ryan Malone debuted with the Penguins as a player in 2003-04. He was arguably the brightest spot on that dreadful team as he lead with 22 goals. After he had a tour of Europe during the lockout, Malone again registered 22 goals with a Penguins team in 2005-06 that was almost as inept despite the fact it dipped into the free agency pool and loaded up on all-stars.
The 2006-07 season may have been the roughest part of Malone's career. He suffered a broken forearm in a fight early in the season in a fight with Blue Jackets defenseman Rostislav Klesla. After missing 18 games, Malone's production dipped a bit and he was dogged by rumors that the Penguins would deal him due to his inconsistent play or even his alleged poor attitude.
This past season, Malone put it all together. Injuries riddled the Penguins' roster and necessity forced the formation of the "Steel City Line" (What a lame name.). Malone was the perfect complement of ruggedness to Petr Sykora's scoring ability and Evgeni Malkin's ability to do whatever he wanted with the puck. As the Penguins fielded a roster full of AHL-caliber talent while the likes of Sidney Crosby, Maxime Talbot and Gary Roberts nursed injuries, the Malkin-Malone-Sykora line carried the team along with Ty Conklin.
During that time, Malone found his niche as a power forward in the mold of Dave Andreychuk setting up shop in front of the net absorbing abuse. He combined that ability with a willingness to kill penalties as well as drop the gloves. Malone did all the dirty little things a first-line player might otherwise shy away from.
Perhaps Malone's greatest contribution to Penguins and Pittsburgh is that he gave Pittsburghers with NHL aspirations hope. Granted, he had the advantage of being the son of a NHL player and scout, but he showed that players born and partially trained in Pittsburgh, could reach the NHL.
Malone grew up a lot in 2007-08. Whether he was motivated by the fact he was playing for a contract or other factors such as family, Ryan Malone finally showed he was more than just potential and that he wasn't just Greg Malone's son. Now that he has a fat contract from the Lightning, it will be interesting to see if his fire will still be there.
UPDATE: TSN is reporting that Malone and Gary Roberts are now "officially" members of the Lightning. Additionally, the report says Malone's father was hired by the Lightning as its head pro scout.
EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS
-Look for that Jarkko Ruutu-Sidney Crosby-Tyler Kennedy line next season.
-Will the Penguins look outside the organization to get a winger?
-The Flyers signed defenseman Steve Eminger. He is expected to take puppy-drowning classes immediately.
-Don't expect the Islanders to go after too many big-name free agents.
-Could the Devils go after Penguins forward Marian Hossa?
-Despite having his negotiating rights dealt to Tampa Bay, Wild forward Brian Rolston is still intent on becoming a free agent Tuesday.
-Lightning owner and former Penguin Len Barrie says his team isn't done signing players. Amazingly enough, Barrie and his group, OK Hockey, don't officially own the Lightning quite yet.
-Illegal Curve examines if Ryan Malone is really worth all the money Tampa Bay is throwing at him.
-Greg Wyshynski says the deal really isn't all that appalling.
-The Kings traded defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to the Oilers for forward Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene.
-The Ducks want to hang on to Corey Perry.
-Don't expect the Stars to go after too many free agents.
-The Avalanche reached deals with defensemen Adam Foote and John-Michael Liles. Should Foote sign, the Blue Jackets would acquire a fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft from the Avalanche. Columbus gains the pick due to a condition in a trade deadline deal between the two teams for Foote.