Don't hold it against Malone

| Thursday, June 19, 2008

The divorce of Ryan Malone and the Penguins isn't final, but apparently all that remains to make it such is completion of the paperwork.

This is a parting of the ways that's much more emotional than amicable.

Aren't they all?

Malone probably became convinced it would ultimately come to this the second time ran out in the Stanley Cup final.

His lingering in almost full uniform statue-like in front of his locker stall long after the Cup had been lost -- think of the Lincoln Memorial except with Honest Abe wearing skates and a baseball cap and staring at the floor rather than stoically forward -- suggested a symbolic understanding on Malone's part that once he pulled that Penguins' uniform off, he'd never be putting it on again.

Malone is now apparently disappointed, hurt, upset, insulted and angered enough on the eve of the realization of that inevitability that he's determined to stick it to the Penguins just a bit on his way out the door.

Or at least to do what he can not to make it easy for the Penguins to show him the door.

Malone made that obvious by issuing statements Tuesday to The Trib ("We will not talk to anyone until July 1") and the Columbus Dispatch ("I don't want any team I go to to give up a possible teammate"), seemingly torpedoing any chance the Pens had to deal his pre-free agency negotiating rights for a draft pick or a player or both.

Translation: I'd rather screw the Penguins than the Blue Jackets.

By holding his tongue, Malone may have helped the Penguins glean a little compensation for his departure, yet still would have committed to nothing regarding his possible arrival in Columbus.

He may even have forced the Blue Jackets' hand to an extent, figuring if they were willing to trade for him then maybe they might be more willing to meet his demands.

If not, the open market would still have been an option July 1.

Now, the Penguins will get nothing and like it (unless Dave Littlefield has suddenly assumed deal-making duties with the Blue Jackets).

Malone, meanwhile, will ultimately get what he needs if not what he wants, which was to remain with the Penguins all along.

At 28 and with four NHL seasons of experience, Malone is coming off a career year and poised to produce another one no matter where he winds up.

His intangibles ought to be viewed as through the roof by those deciding whether he's worth $4 million or $5 million a season for five years.

As a player, Malone is no Evgeni Malkin tag-along. Like any good player, Malone will produce more playing with players of equal or greater value. But no matter his new linemates, Malone will earn his keep.

What's more, he figures to become even more of a leader and locker room presence based on his Stanley Cup experience with the Penguins.

He'll achieve yet another level on and off the ice in his new home.

The Penguins have chosen to prioritize Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Marian Hossa and Brooks Orpik ahead of Malone, which is both their right and the right thing to do moving forward.

But Malone's part in a divorce that had to be a little messy by definition shouldn't be held against him.

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