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Analysis: Malone signing could make Tampa's defense even worse

Ryan Malone's new seven year pact with the Lightning will have him making an average of $4.5 million per season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Ryan Malone's new seven year pact with the Lightning will have him making an average of $4.5 million per season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a splash signing rugged winger Ryan Malone, but the ripples could be cause for concern.

In and of itself, getting the 28-year-old Malone in the mix for seven years at an average of $4.5 million per season is a good move.

Tampa is the rare last-place team that has a legit superstar in place to carry the load, so while Vincent Lecavalier is challenging for Hart and Art Ross Trophies over the next five years, Malone can help a team that used to have one first line and three fifth lines go about creating some secondary scoring.

His grit in front of the net will add to the high skill set that already exists on Tampa’s power play.

Where Malone’s arrival becomes troubling is if the money allotted to him displaces Dan Boyle and his $6.6 million per season on the blueline.

There’s already speculation Boyle might be sacrificed in order to re-calibrate the Bolts’ budget to accommodate the salary cap.

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If Boyle and his no-trade clause were placed on waivers, there’s no doubt another team would snap him up. Given he’s the only Lightning defenseman you can say that about (OK, Shane O’Brien, maybe), it makes one ponder if the team’s new ownership shouldn’t be a little more concerned about sinking cash into a pathetic blueline corps that, combined with shaky goaltending, has been the Lightning’s Achilles’ heel for years now.

If the current group make up doesn’t improve, Malone will have to score about 65 goals a year to help take the pressure off young netminders Karri Ramo and Mike Smith.

If Greg Malone, Ryan’s father and Tampa’s new head pro scout as of last week, can muster up some hot tips on a few quality blueliners to trade for, he’ll have a far greater impact to the Bolts’ fortunes than his son.

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