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Pens' Malone warned of potential trade

Penguins general manager Ray Shero meets informally with members of the team all the time. But his sit-down discussion Monday with forward Ryan Malone had a bit more urgency than most of his recent talks with the club.

The talk centered on a rumored trade involving the 26-year-old forward.

Sunday, the New York Post reported a possible deal that would send Malone and, potentially, defenseman Brooks Orpik to the New York Rangers in a package deal including forward Petr Prucha.

"Ray brought me in and warned me about that one," Malone said. "I've been hearing (trade rumors) all year, but I had a good talk with Ray."

Malone, who missed 18 games with a broken left forearm, has struggled throughout much of the season. He has five goals and 10 points in 25 games, including his first career hat trick Dec. 15 in a 7-4 win over the New York Islanders. During Saturday's 5-3 win in Philadelphia, Malone skated on a line with Mark Recchi and Sidney Crosby.

Prucha was an eighth-round pick by the Rangers in 2002 and played several years in his native Czech Republic before making his NHL debut last season. He scored 30 goals and 47 points as a rookie, but his production has slipped this season to 10 goals and 19 points, good for seventh on the team. He has a minus-12 rating in 44 games and is projected as only a second- or third-line player, which has prompted Rangers general manager Glen Sather to pursue potential suitors.

"(Shero) kind of told me that he talked to Glen, obviously, and that teams were asking about me," Malone said. "He said he's not looking to trade me, but it's part of the business and that's just the way it goes. I'm kind of struggling or whatever, and I don't think I'm playing up to my potential right now."

Shero has not pulled the trigger on any major deals this season. In the only trade of note, the team acquired defenseman Wade Brookbank from Boston for future considerations Dec. 19 and sent him directly to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

"Obviously, there haven't been that many trades in particular, but you're always talking to teams, so let's be realistic. That's how things get started, and it's with every team, not just Pittsburgh, and that's the way the thing is," Shero said. "I don't want to respond to everything that's in the paper or any rumor, and that's part of the business and part of being an athlete no matter what sport you're in, so that's the way it goes."

Which is also the reason Shero and Malone sat down.

"I didn't have to (meet with Malone), but I think it's important to do that," Shero said. "Let's be realistic, there's a lot of guys on any team that are tradable, and I told Ryan that, throughout his career, even before I got here, his name has been out there for the simple reason that teams are intrigued by him, and I told him I'm intrigued by him, too."

Despite the recent slip in production, Malone warrants attention because of a 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame that many teams covet. He also has the potential of being a high-impact power forward. He scored 22 goals in each of his first two professional seasons and was selected to the NHL's all-rookie team after the 2003-04 campaign.

Still, if the offer is sweet enough, Malone does not rank among the team's untouchables and could be dealt if the right offer comes along.

"I want him to do his thing here, but that could change tomorrow. I could call him in here and say you've been traded, but that's not what I'm looking to do at this point," Shero said. "I want him to be a good player here, but rumors are always going to be out there, that's how the business is, I understand that, but I wanted to talk with Ryan about it and it was a good talk."

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