Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone pleaded no contest Tuesday to a driving under the influence charge stemming from an April incident.
The 34-year-old winger was arrested and charged with DUI as well as cocaine possession four months ago, per Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times.
According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Malone has agreed to take part in a pre-trial intervention program:
Ex- #tblightning wing Ryan Malone pled no contest to DUI charge in court this morning. Will do pre-trial intervention prog. for drug charge— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) August 19, 2014
Smith is also reporting that Malone's decision will result in the cocaine possession charge being dropped:
With pre-trial intervention program, Malone's charge of cocaine possession will be dismissed if he completes requirements.— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) August 19, 2014
While Malone agreed to the intervention program, he claimed to be surprised when officer Andrew Visser found cocaine in his back pocket during the April traffic stop, according to Smith.
Malone, 34, waived his Miranda rights and told Visser he didn't know where the 1.3 grams of cocaine came from, according to discovery documents the Tampa Bay Times received Tuesday through a public records request.
Malone told Visser he didn't believe the officer planted the drugs on him, according to the documents, but he was 'baffled' because he was wearing the same jeans for three days.
'I asked where it came from,' Visser wrote in his report. 'And he said he was just shocked.'
The 10-year NHL veteran struggled through the toughest season of his career in 2013-14 as he put up just 15 points in 57 games. Malone was a regular healthy scratch as a result of his poor play, which led to his tenure with the Lightning coming to an end.
Per NHL.com's Dan Rosen, the Bolts decided to use their remaining compliance buyout on Malone, which made him an unrestricted free agent:
TBL announce Ryan Malone has been issued a compliance buyout. He's a UFA. Lightning save $4.5 mil on cap, but just gave $5.8 to Callahan.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 25, 2014
In the wake of getting bought out, agent Mike Liut insisted that his client would bounce back from the mistake that likely contributed to his release, according to Smith.
He will do whatever is asked of him in an effort to rehabilitate himself and his position in the league. And it's my expectation that he'll be eligible to play. Anyone that's ever played with Ryan knows he's a good guy, and he's a good teammate, good person and good people make mistakes. That's a serious issue and Ryan understands that.
Malone has yet to catch on with another team, but Paul Kennedy of Fox Sports Florida is among those who would like to see Malone's NHL career continue despite his off-ice issues:
Here's hoping Ryan Malone finds the right team & returns to the ferocious level of play that brought him here. Bugsy was great to the media— Paul Kennedy (@PaulKennedyFOX) June 25, 2014
Will Malone sign with another NHL team?
While it remains to be seen if a team is willing to take a chance on a declining player with off-ice problems, Malone moving past this situation brings him one step closer to potentially continuing his NHL career.
It is entirely possible that he won't be afforded another opportunity, but he will undoubtedly be under the microscope if he is.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter