June 13, 2008
Please recall last year, when the Nashville Predators traded Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to the Philadelphia Flyers, giving Philly exclusive negotiating rights to the two unrestricted free agents before the feast began on July 1.
The Sweater Ted recently examined the same sort of situation happening for the Pittsburgh Penguins and two of their UFAs: Forward Ryan Malone and defenseman Brooks Orpik, both of whom could command significant raises this summer.
In Malone's case, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been mentioned several times since the Stanley Cup finals ended. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post Dispatch reports on his blog this afternoon that the whispers remain strong, especially with Evgeni Malkin nearing a contract extension with Pittsburgh. Even if that contract fails to reach Ovechkin-levels of years or dollars, the Penguins still can't break the bank for a player like Malone with no less than a dozen other UFAs to consider.
From Portzline at Puck Rakers:
Ryan Malone is not going to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins, unless the Penguins significantly up their offer. It's looking more and more like the Penguins will get Evgeni Malkin signed to a contract extension and be able to keep right winger Marian Hossa. That will show Malone to the door.
An NHL source said that Malone has been low-balled twice by the Penguins and is ready to leave July 1 as an unrestricted free agent. Malone's rights could be traded before that day, of course, and the Blue Jackets are a likely destination.
The source said the Penguins have already made the Blue Jackets an offer for Malone's rights. Not sure what the offer was, or if the Blue Jackets are still contemplating it. But this could go down pretty quick, folks.
Granted, that his blog ends with the claim that "Joel Quenneville may be the next coach in Florida. Kevin Dineen would be his assistant" doesn't inspire much confidence in his sources on the day Peter DeBoer was named the 10th coach in Panthers history. But Portzline is aces on the Jackets beat, so this Malone thing has legs. More from Bob Hunter on the Malone scuttlebutt.
From a Columbus perspective, it's not a perfect fit based on the depth chart. This team needs a center in the worst way. Can't imagine that center is Malone, because he's about as accomplished as a face-off man as Orpik is. But if the Jackets are looking for offensive depth, some grit and a few more broken noses, you could do a lot worse than Malone -- at the right price.