Brad Malone Won't Solve Carolina Hurricanes' 4th-Line Weakness

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2014

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Brad Malone #42 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Los Angeles Kings during their preseason game at the Pepsi Center on September 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Kings 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes and general manager Ron Francis entered Tuesday's NHL free-agency period hoping to improve their offensive depth.

Their first signing of the day, former Colorado Avalanche center Brad Malone, was praised as a vital improvement to the team's weak cast of bottom-six forwards.

He isn't.

Malone signed a two-year contract with the 'Canes just an hour past noon, per Aaron Ward of TSN:

He'll carry a cap hit of $650,000 and play on a one-way deal.

Said Francis per the team's official press release, "Brad is a big, physical forward. He can play either center or wing and helps improve our team’s depth up front."

Sep 26, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Brad Malone (42) checks Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) during the game at American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Avalanche 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Spo
USA TODAY Sports

The 'Canes likely targeted Malone, 25, for his size and physicality.

The 6'2", 207-pound forward played 32 games for Colorado in 2013-14 and tallied a whopping 79 hits, leading the Avs in hits-per-game average. Over the course of 54 career NHL appearances, Malone has averaged a remarkable 2.43 per game.

Carolina undoubtedly needs more toughness, especially after sending away enforcers Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu during the 2013-14 campaign. Malone is a worthy contributor in that regard, small sample size aside.

Brad Malone Stats by Season
SeasonGPGoalsAssistsHits
2011-1290213
2012-13131139
2013-14323279
Total5445131
NHL.com

But scoring? It's not Malone's strongest attribute.

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 24: Brad Malone #42 of the Colorado Avalanche handles the puck against the Minnesota Wild during Game Four of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 24, 2014 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo
Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

The University of North Dakota graduate tallied just five points this past season and nine in his NHL career to date.

Advanced stats paint an even less impressive picture, as Malone posted a Corsi percentage of 40.7 percent5.3 percent lower than the team's percentage when he was off the ice (based on shot-attempt differential)despite starting a highly beneficial 66.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, according to Extra Skater data

After growing accustomed to the defensive tendencies of former fourth-line center Manny Malhotra, who signed in Montreal on Tuesday, the 'Canes could have a difficult time adjusting to Malone, who is not nearly as reliable in his own zone.

However, the difference between Malhotra and Malone may be most evident in the faceoff circle. The former ranked second in the NHL with a 59.4 winning percentage; the latter won just 46.9 percent of his 96 draws this past season.

Malone is nine years younger and miles more adept at the physical aspect of the game. It's hard not to wonder, though, if the total package is any improvement at all.

The 'Canes first addition of July may indeed bolster (slightly) their bottom-six depth, but he's hardly worthy of the opening day roster spot that he seems to have been awarded.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.