Lightning use compliance buyout on Malone

Ryan Malone. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

The Tampa Bay Lightning will terminate the final season of Ryan Malone’s contract with a compliance buyout, Sportsnet has learned.

Mike Liut, the player’s agent, confirmed the news on Wednesday morning.

Malone is coming off a season where he was a healthy scratch on multiple occasions and also missed time with a fractured ankle. He finished with just five goals and 15 points — career-low totals for him in a non-lockout year.

Then, on April 12, he was arrested in Tampa and charged with cocaine possession and driving under the influence of alcohol. He entered a not guilty plea on those charges last week.

There had been some question about whether Malone was eligible to be bought out because he entered the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse program following his arrest, but league sources indicated that his participation didn’t provide an obstacle to this process.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman decided to use his second and final amnesty buyout on the veteran winger after cutting former captain Vincent Lecavalier loose last summer. Malone is the fifth NHL player to be bought out during this year’s compliance window, which closes on June 30.

The 34-year-old spent the past six seasons in Tampa after signing a $31.5-million, seven-year deal as a free agent in 2008. A traditional power forward, Malone topped the 20-goal plateau on three occasions with the Lightning — bringing his career total to six NHL seasons with at least that many — but was severely hampered by injuries in recent years.

His buyout will free up $4.5-million in cap space for the Lightning next season, some of which can be used to cover Ryan Callahan’s hefty new extension.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Malone will receive $833,333 in compensation from Tampa each of the next two years. He is also an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any other team.

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