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Malone: 'A deal could have been done a long time ago'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Former Penguins' left wing Ryan Malone, the first Pittsburgh-born player in franchise history, said today he would have taken less than his free-agent market value to stay with the franchise.

"Of course," said Malone, who signed a seven-year contract worth $31.5 million with Tampa Bay after the Penguins traded his and forward Gary Roberts' rights to the Lightning for a 2009 third-round pick on June 28. "I'm sure a deal could have been done a long time ago.

"They weren't really sure what they had or what they thought of (me)... that's what happens."

Malone scored 27 goals, including a team-best six winners, and recorded 51 points for the Penguins last season - a breakout campaign that saw him become a dressing-room leader.

General manager Ray Shero praised Malone's contributions to the Penguins yesterday.

"It was a business decision," Shero said of trading Malone. "I wish him the best, because he really did a great job for us.

"It became apparent to me it was not going to happen with us - whether it was financially or whether he just wanted to get to (the free-agency period) July 1. When the Tampa Bay situation came along, I thought that might be a good situation for him, and I had to do what's best for our team."

Malone is slated to play tonight for Tampa Bay against the Penguins in an exhibition game at St. Pete Times Forum.

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