UPDATE (Sunday June 29, 2:45 p.m. EDT): Sportsnet is reporting that both players will sign with Tampa Bay, with Malone's deal exceeding $30 million. Yowzer.
Owner Oren Koules had previously said he planned on being "in the backyards" of the NHL's top unrestricted free agents during next week's feeding frenzy. Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning took an even more aggressive step: Trading away a conditional 2009 draft pick for the rights to left wings Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bolts will trade their 2009 third-round pick to the Penguins if Malone signs. Dallas's fourth-round pick, acquired in the Brad Richards trade, will go to Pittsburgh if Malone signs elsewhere. (No word if The Pensblog must ship all unsold "WWGRD?" merchandise to Boltsmag if Roberts signs.) "This trade today doesn't guarantee anything, but we believe it gives us a leg up in our attempt to sign these two impact players," Koules said in a statement.
Koules told Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times that Malone is "prototypical of what all of us have been looking for in a hockey player" and that the Lightning won't be scared off by his price tag. With the MVP Live of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Vaclav Prospal presumably reunited, Malone would be slotted as the left wing for No. 1 draft pick Steven Stamkos. It's a rather perfect fit: A gritty player who'll get his hands dirty for the rookie, but one that's also a rather solid complimentary offensive player.
As for Roberts, the fourth line could use a player like him. Here's how Cristodero of Lighting Strikes sees it:
He has been a god (sic, yet hilariously appropriate) leader throughout his career, so perhaps Melrose and owner Oren Koules can pursuade him to take a chance on the Lightning. And, in fact, Roberts had to waive a no-trade clause, so there might actually be some interest. Would seem Roberts is seen as a third-line guy and a locker-room presence that would command respect from young and old players alike.
Roberts' agent Rick Curran said Roberts did, indeed, want to play closer to home. But he had such a blast playing last season with the Penguins' youngsters, such as Jordan Staal, he would love the chance to work with Steve Stamkos.
"Rob gets excited by stuff like that," Curran said. "He's pretty enthused. ... If we can get something done, he's not against the possibility. It could be fun."
BoltsBlast is hoping these deals get done, and I can't blame them: Malone would be appear to be a perfect co-star for Stamkos out of the gate, and Roberts would be welcome in any locker room.
Tampa Bay's aggressive play for both of them is just another reason why I've fought so fervently against the notion that Koules and partner Len Barrie are some kind of hockey sideshow.
Signing two of the best character guys from a Stanley Cup finalist for veteran leadership in a last-place locker room? Wow, that's just craaaaaazy, isn't it?
Like we said: Embrace the Wackiness, people. If they get this done, it's genius.