Monday, June 30, 2008


Lightning Struck a Day Early

One of the few free agent forwards under 30 was just locked up to a ridiculous 7 year, $31.5 million deal today. Ryan Malone will be making an average of $4.5 million per year for Tampa Bay. It's front-loaded too, as TSN reports, with an amazing $7-8 million in his first two years of the contract. I'd like to emphasize that Malone's career highs came in this past season, a whopping 27 goals and 51 points. Brian Gionta's big contract yields a smaller cap hit than that, and he was way more productive in getting that contract. I fear this contract will inflate many of the other on-going deals that will be finalized tomorrow. That's not good for anyone, except for the guys (player, agent, his "bros," etc.) getting the money.

Tampa Bay continued the moves by resigning Vaclav Prospal again, giving Gary Roberts one more year (mentioned in the Malone article), and trading a conditional draft pick to Minnesota for the rights to Brian Rolston.

Now, if I'm a Tampa Bay fan, I'd feel mixed about these moves. Sure, Malone is a big forward who can score somewhat well; but that cap hit isn't going to look pretty unless Malone raises his game. Even if he's constantly lined up with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier (which he likely won't now that Prospal's back), I don't see Malone putting up 70 points short of displaying some amazing chemistry and/or developing some amazing talent. This guy's been on Evgeni Malkin's wing for most of last season, if I'm not mistaken, and he only put up that much? What's he going to do on the second line behind Prospal? Production-wise, he could end up like, well, Brian Gionta.

Bringing Prospal back is a much better move, considering his past production with the team last season (29 goals and 28 assists in 62 games). He's not getting younger and his defense leaves a lot to be desired; but he shoots, he can make plays (as recently seen from the Flyers' playoff run), and he's got proven chemistry to Tampa Bay's top forwards. Melrose would be foolish not to have Prospal make a return to that top unit. While it's good for the team, it could make the Malone deal more of an albatross should Prospal continue putting up points with Vincent and Martin. Don't get me wrong, Ralston is a good center.

The decision to get Brian Rolston is more intriguing. Should they sign him - and I think that's likely, otherwise I don't understand the trade at all, he will provide experience (and a lot of lessons to Steve Stamkos) and still perform as a capable center. He did put up 34, 31, and 31 goals in each of his last three seasons in Minnesota while playing 20 minutes a night for the Wild. He could easily find himself on the second line. Perhaps Malone can feed off that; though it begs the question as to where Stamkos will end up. Maybe at wing? Maybe Rolston will move to wing? Who knows, but Rolston can help at both ends of the rink and if he pots in 25-30 goals doing it, it'll be all for the better. I'm not sure why Gary Roberts is still playing, and I'm not sure what he could add other than veteran presence.

Despite my distate for the Malone signing, the Lightning may have gotten better just by bringing back a former Lightning left-winger (Prospal) and obtaining a solid center who doesn't have to be the #1 center (Rolston). For a Devils perspective, there's something to be learned here. Both of these two signings that I like are over 33. Most of the better forwards in free agency this summer are veterans and despite the usual emphasis on youth; many are definitely able to significantly help out teams in someway or form. Should the Devils also sign a forward this summer, he'll likely be a veteran. While it won't be any of these guys, I urge you to look past their age and look more towards what they can do. Mats Sundin, for example, has plenty to offer. And I think much more than Sergei Brylin, who may or may not be back at this point. It'll be exciting tomorrow, that's for sure.

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