Ryan Malone: Signing Will Impact NHL Free Agent Frenzy

Joe MacDonaldAnalyst IJune 30, 2008

The signing of winger Ryan Malone to a seven-year, $31.5 million dollar contract by the Tampa Bay Lightning could have a major impact on what unfolds when the National Hockey League's free agent frenzy begins in earnest on Tuesday.

The first and most obvious impact is that the removal of Malone, and to a lesser extent veteran winger Gary Roberts, shrinks an already less-than-overflowing pool of free agent forwards.

This is probably good news for players like Marian Hossa and Mats Sundin—and bad news for the teams who originally thought they had a good shot at landing one of the marquee guys available.

With Malone off the market, teams like Columbus, Vancouver, and Florida, who were rumored to be very interested in Malone, may take another look at Hossa, Sundin, or maybe even Brian Rolston—driving up the price for a prospective buyer.

Of course, if Rolston, whose rights the Lightning acquired on Sunday from Minnesota, signs with Tampa as well, expect Mr. Sundin and Mr. Hossa to be extremely wealthy by Tuesday evening.

The Malone contract also, to a certain extent, creates a salary benchmark for the remaining UFAs. Let's face it, Hossa and Sundin are going to get their money anyway—but if I'm Brian Rolston's agent, my client's price may have just gone up a little bit.

It's all about supply and deman—and it's definitely a seller's market.

A final potential impact of the Malone signing is one that most NHL general mangers won't admit, except in soft whispers—it may increase the likelihood of offer sheets being submitted to restricted free agents.

Teams like Columbus and Vancouver, who desperately want and need to make a splash during the free agency period, may look for other alternatives if “their man” is no longer available and if the best of the remaining unrestricted free agents are out of their price range. Maybe a Corey Perry, an Andrei Kostitsyn, or an Antoine Vermette looks a little more attractive with Ryan Malone off the market.

Tuesday just got a little more interesting!