Few players epitomized the city in which they played like Ryan Malone did when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The heavily tattooed Malone played the game tough and eventually priced himself off his hometown Penguins, inking a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven years and $31.5 million in 2008. Injuries, ineffectiveness and a finally DUI/drug arrest led to the Lightning buying out the final year of his contract, making the troubled Malone an unrestricted free agent. Six weeks into free agency there have been no takers, so could a Steeltown Reunion happen?
The Penguins have voids throughout their lineup and a top heavy team that in a cap driven league makes filling voids in the bottom portion of the lineup hard. Inviting Malone to camp on a non-guaranteed tryout agreement could be mutually beneficial. It goes without saying that Malone needs to get his personal life in order, but if in fact he is sober and in game shape he’d be a solid addition to the team’s bottom six.
Malone was close with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as he acted as a mentor of sorts to both of the stars during their early days in the league. Having one or both of them vouch for him is definitely an asset that could work in the power forward’s favor. His offense has somewhat dried up and he is nearing his 35th birthday, but Malone still has what it takes to be an above average bottom-six forward in the NHL.
It absolutely goes without saying that Ryan Malone the person is far more important than Ryan Malone the hockey player. Playing in an environment that he’s comfortable in, in front of fans he literally grew up in front of could be the best thing for Malone. His 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame could be what’s best for the Penguins. The onus is now on the Penguins to bring the Pittsburgh native “home” once again and help him help himself while helping the team at the same time.