The tenure of Ryan Malone in Tampa Bay has come to an end as the club announced this morning that it would be using its second compliance buyout on the veteran left wing.
Malone, 34, was originally part of a team revamp occurring in the summer of 2008, orchestrated by incoming owner OK Hockey. Between length of the deal (7 years) and the salary cap hit ($4.5 million) the contract became an albatross as Malone started to battle injuries a little too regularly, and found himself demoted to lower and lower lines with the club, eventually leading to some healthy scratches.
He played only 57 games last season with the Bolts, netting 5 goals and 10 assists while most of his playing time was on the 4th line. His biggest claim to fame this past season was his arrest for DUI and cocaine possession. He's been in the NHL's substance abuse program since. Speculation had it that perhaps the substance abuse program would prevent a buyout from occurring because it could be considered that Ryan was on long-term injured-reserve.
Malone's best season in Tampa Bay was his fourth (2011-12) as he scored 20 goals and 28 assists in 69 games. It was his 3rd time he had posted 45 points or better with the Lightning.
The Lightning (as with every other NHL teams) was given two compliance buyouts after the 2012/13 NHL lockout ended, intended to rid the league of bad contracts. A compliance buyout means the club will not face a salary cap penalty for ridding itself of the contract. The team used its first compliance buyout on former team captain Vincent Lecavalier last summer.
While we can wish Malone the best of luck and la-de-da, what is important is that we wish Ryan recovery from his substance issues. There's no doubt he'll find his way back to the game in one capacity or another in time, but right now his focus should be on himself.