Ryan Malone and his agent Mike Liut are not fond of shotgun weddings. While the rest of the hockey world was studying the Columbus Blue Jackets' depth chart to see how many face-offs Malone might have to lose next season, the Pittsburgh Penguins' UFA winger declared publicly his intentions to test the market no matter which team owns his rights.
If you ever needed a reminder that we're watching a business rather than a sport -- not that you did need one, what with the NHL headed for another labor showdown -- Malone just provided a memorable memento. Here's a guy who went to war in a Penguins jersey for four rounds and then, as Steven Ovadia writes on Puck Update, basically pimp-slapped the franchise:
Obviously, this takes the puck off of Pittsburgh's stick. They're not going to get anything for Malone now. Whatever the Penguins offered him must be pretty low. Malone must be pretty mad to go out of his way to make sure the Penguins get absolutely nothing for him.
Liut claims that there's only "a 50-50 chance right now" that Malone changes teams, but he has to be done in Pittsburgh after this stunt; although it could be argued that he was done anyway if the Penguins were seeking to trade his rights and bring back Marian Hossa.
But what about the chances that he still ends up in Columbus as the kind of gritty player the team could use on a secondary scoring line? (Say, perhaps, with a center whose name rhymes with "Boli Bokinen." We hear things ...) Adam Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch's Puck Rackers blog, which has been driving this story, doesn't think Malone screwed over the Jackets as much as he did the Penguins. In fact, Portzline thinks there's still a chance Malone could break a few noses in Ohio:
People who think Ryan Malone's decision to go to free agency is a kick in the gut to the Blue Jackets are dead wrong. The two clubs talked trade preliminarily, but there was never an official offer on the table. It never got to that point. If anything, Malone pulled the carpet out from underneath the Penguins on this deal, not the Blue Jackets. Don't believe insiderrumormonger-pittsburgh.com either, or whatever it is. That's total b.s. I believe Malone will wholeheartedly consider the Blue Jackets on July 1. Are they a favorite? Will he sign here? I can't possibly say at this juncture. But I believe he'll consider Columbus on July 1. Anybody who says he won't is talking WAY out of turn.
For the record, the insiderrumormonger-pittsburgh.com domain is still available. Speaking of rumors: Puck Daddy Hockey Rumors Live Chat at 12:30 p.m. EDT today. Tell a friend.