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United States, NJ • United States • 29 Years Old • Male
Ok, I'm back. It took a little longer than anticipated to get over the loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, but I think I'm alright now. Every time I thought I was over it, something would happen or I'd see a highlight from the series and it just prolonged the entire healing process. Anyway, the draft is over and now free agency begins on July 1.

That being said, I've read some stories in the last couple of days that have perturbed me slightly. Namely that Ryan Malone will probably not be back in Steeltown this fall.

I don't really blame Malone for looking to go elsewhere after being strung along by the Pens. I may be way off here, but what I don't get is how for the last three years he's been the target of trade rumors and the like. Every year when these rumors came up I defended him and said to anyone who would listen that he'd come around and we shouldn't deal him away. Every year the deadline passed and he was still on the team and I could breathe a little easier. Then it happened.

He finally evolved into the player we and the Penguins thought he could be. He was named an alternate captain and his production went nuts when he was put on a line with Sykora and Malkin. No one can question his will to win after playing with a broken nose during the playoffs, only to see that nose take a rocket shot from Hal Gill in the Finals. We all saw it. My heart sank when I saw Malone drop to the ice with the blood pouring out of his face. I actually said right then and there "Well that's probably it for him in this series and our chances just got even smaller." Then out of nowhere, he's back on the bench with gauze up his nose looking like he just got mugged in a dark alley somewhere. He only missed a couple of shifts and was back and ready to go for the start of the third period of the marathon Game 5 in Detroit.

You can't put a price tag on character and Ryan Malone has more intangibles than a lot of guys on the team. Now I understand that the Pens told him they wouldn't negotiate with anyone until July 1. That was code for "we're not going to negotiate with anyone until we figure out what we're going to do with Marian Hossa."

I get that, fine. It makes sense to give priority to someone who you paid a pretty penny for during the season to get. For the most part it was looking like Hossa was a lock to re-sign in Pittsburgh and would even consider taking a pay cut to return. For 24 hours I was walking around with a huge grin on my face thinking that we could possibly do what NHL 2K8 for the Xbox 360 allowed me to do and bring back the entire team and be under the cap. By no means am I saying that I'm basing this entire post about what I was able to do in a video game. Just merely stating a point of how obsessed I can get with this team.

Then the news comes out that the Pens have broken off talks with Hossa because he wants to test the free agent market. Wonderful. Oh, but wait! Hossa might still return to the Penguins afterall, but he just wants to be sure. Really? If you don't follow the logic going through his head right now let me see if I can clarify this by using a situation we've all had some encounter with. Maybe you haven't had it happen to you, but you definitely know someone in this situation.

Let's say your buddy is dating this extremely attractive woman who you all know is perfect for him and he should just settle down and marry the girl. However, your buddy was dropped on his head as a child and always has to second guess his gut feeling. He goes out one day and buys the engagement ring with all the intentions of popping the question and everyone else is all happy for him. Then as he's leaving the store, he sees another beautiful woman. Decides he just wants to be sure he's making the right move so he goes woos this woman and has a meaningless 3-4 year relationship with this other girl. All the while he knows he should have just settled down for the long haul with the girl he bought that silver ring for. The same ring he etched his name into.

The Penguins are the girl waiting for the engagement ring in this case, but if Hossa wants a ring of his own he needs to sign a deal ASAP. His delaying of the process here is why Malone is going to bail. His delaying of the process here is delaying the signing of other guys like Orpik, Ruutu, Hall, Dupuis, and oh yeah some guys named Malkin and Fleury. Whoever they are.

Something needs to happen and soon or else we're going to lose both Malone and Hossa and when that happens I can't imagine any Penguins fans being overly thrilled about it.
June 24, 2008 5:26 PM ET | Delete
Very interesting analysis. Makes a lot of sense too. Hossa has a great shot at winning and doing many great things with this Pens team if he sticks around. That said 4 or 5 "depth guys" that include the likes of Malone and Dupuis would probably prove more valuable to the Pens in the long run. Hossa is a great talent, but with Crosby and Malkin already in the fold having the kind of depth the Pens had this year is exactly what got them to the cup final. Being able to role 4 lines and having all 4 contribute is golden in this salary cap era. If you can hang on to all the guys you named (except Orpik, who as I understand it won't be back because he dislikes Therrien) then I think in the big picture Pittsburgh will be a perennial contender for a few more years to come even without Hossa in the mix.I'm not an huge follower of the Pens by any means, so that assessment could be very wrong, but it's my 2 cents on the situation for what its worth.
June 25, 2008 11:28 AM ET | Delete
The girlfriend comparison isn't bad. To me it's more of an "I think we should see other people." Hossa is gone. While the Penguins will miss Malone (and coming for a guy who watches the game primarily for the hard-nosed roleplayers) he just wants too much money. He can get it, he has earned it, he should go somewhere else and get it. But he just isn't worth to the Penguins what he is worth to other teams. His numbers on a great line were awesome, but there is a pretty large number of players that would have put up similar production on that line at 1/2 the cost. To me, he really is another Kevin Stevens. Fans love the guy. Put him on a line with Mario and he'll score 30 goals, but put him anywhere else and he essentially disappears.
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