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Upon seeing TSN's report that Ryan Malone will sign a seven year, $31.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, our thoughts turned to Barry Melrose. It all makes sense now: The way the Bolts are tossing around money, he must be paying them for the chance to coach this season.

The money for Malone is extraordinary. Usually if a guy with that many broken noses is making that much dough in Florida, he's running a meth lab. If TSN is correct -- and really, with the way Dreger and McKenzie dress, who's not trusting them? -- then Malone will receive a front-loaded salary between $7 and $8 million in each of the first two years of the deal.

That mean's there's a very good chance that Ryan Malone, the fifth-leading scorer on the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, could make more money next season than seven of the top 10 scorers in the NHL in 2007-08 will. So we can understand the anger from Flames Forum when Jarome Iginla suddenly can't get into the same clubs as Ryan Malone.

Ashley at Ultimate Hat Trick hates the contract, too, but manages to bring up the most important point lost on so many critics this morning: The cap hit.

It could be in the neighborhood of $4.5 million according to Lightning Strikes. Yes, it's a very rich deal; but look at teams like the Flyers or the Stars. Malone's cap hit is in line for a secondary offensive player, and rather spot-on for one of the top five forwards available as a UFA. Milan Michalek is a $4.3 million cap hit; would you spring the extra 200 grand a season against the cap for Malone?

Waiting for Stanley wonders how the hell the Lightning are doing all of this, and has a great theory. We think it's entirely possible that Brian Rolston is currently being held in a booby-trapped room from a "Saw" movie, with a multi-year contract and a briefcase full of dead presidents chained to his leg.

The Pensblog fears for the rest of free agency in light of the money Tampa's tossed around in the days leading up to the shopping spree. Their fears are assured by Lightning co-owner Len Barrie, who says the team's just getting started.

Who will be the next to Embrace the Wackiness and Drink the Koules-Aid? Better question: They wouldn't hire Jagr's dad as the new director of Czech hockey operations, would they? Didn't think so.

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