Bolts' bad move

I was reading online where Ryan Malone could be considered the new Martin Lapointe. With free-agency about to kick in Tuesday morning, that comparison could be fulfilling a dangerous prophecy.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, armed with deep-pocketed new ownership after finishing with the fewest wins last season and with former ESPN talking head Barry Melrose behind the bench, made the biggest splash Monday by agreeing with Malone to a seven-year, $31.5 million contract.

On Saturday, the Bolts acquired the short-term negotiating rights to Malone and 42-year-old forward Gary Roberts from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional draft pick.

“We said earlier this week we would be aggressive in our pursuit of free agents in order to win and compete,” new owner Oren Koules told the Lightning's official Web site. True to its word, Tampa Bay on Monday picked up the rights to Brian Rolston from the Minnesota Wild for a draft pick.

The question that must be asked is how did Malone become the centerpiece of this rebuilding effort? He was a nice player for Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh last season with career-highs of 27 goals and 51 points. He had 11 power-play goals and six game-winners in 2007-08, and will turn just 29 in December.

But this is not a player who will develop into a 40-goal, 100-point scorer. While the Lightning have those types of players in Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and a possible future star in No. 1 overall pick Steve Stamkos, how can this deal be justified after the lockout, $56.7 million salary cap notwithstanding.

At 6-foot-4, Malone will never be confused with the 5-foot-11 Lapointe, who split last season with the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators. In 2001, Lapointe, then 27, parlayed the best season of his career - 27 goals and 57 points with the Detroit Red Wings - into a four-year, $20 million contract with the Boston Bruins.

Since then, he hasn't had more than 17 goals and 23 assists, and those came in his first season in Beantown. He's a third-liner at best.

Koules and his ownership group need to remember the phrase 'buyer beware.' While I am sure there is a certain aspect of glitz and glamor to being the owner of a professional franchise, they also need to be smart about their spending.

$31.5 million to Malone, in my estimation, is not smart.

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