Ryan Malone pleads no contest to DUI; cocaine charges to be dismissed

Aug 19, 9:43 AM

Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone pled no contest to a DUI charge in court Tuesday morning, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

The 34-year-old is set to enter a pre-trial intervention program stemming from a cocaine possession charge. 

Malone's agent said a couple NHL teams are interested in the unrestricted free agent; the signing process will no doubt be helped along by putting these legal issues behind him.

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Kim Klement

Aug 12, 10:28 PM

Ryan Malone 'shocked' when police discovered cocaine in his pocket

Aug 12, 10:28 PM

Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone apparently has no idea where the 1.3 grams of cocaine found in his pocket during an April 11 DUI arrest came from. 

The Tampa Bay Times acquired discovery documents from Malone's arrest that noted the 34-year-old was "baffled" and "shocked" by the finding of illicit drugs in his back pocket, as he had been wearing the same jeans for three days.

Malone, who pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence and cocaine possession charges, was bought out by the Lightning in June and is expected back in court Aug. 19. 

Jun 16, 5:40 PM

Lightning's Malone enters not guilty plea for DUI and cocaine possession

Jun 16, 5:40 PM

Tampa Bay Lightning forward and prime compliance buyout candidate Ryan Malone entered a written not-guilty plea at an arraignment hearing in Tampa on Monday. Malone's legal issues stem from a mid-April incident, following which the forward was charged with cocaine possession and driving under the influence. His next court date will be on July 7th, per the Tampa Bay Times

As a result of Malone's legal issues, he's been been entered into the NHL/NHLPA's Substance Abuse and Behavior Health Program (SABH). While it's believed that Malone's status in the program will not impact the club's ability to terminate his contract with a compliance buyout, the language of the 2013 NHL/NHLPA CBA doesn't clearly lay out this issue on way or another.

What is clear is that the Lightning are considering using a buyout on Malone's deal. Said Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman a week ago:

Obviously, injuries he's had — some serious injuries over the past three, four years since I've been with the organization — have limited the number of games that he could play.

It does take its toll on a player. We're taking everything into consideration for the offseason in improving our team, and we're looking at all different (options), whether it be the draft, free agency, trades, buyouts. We'll take it all into consideration.

Injuries and legal issues have caused Malone to miss 63 regular season games over the past three seasons. Since scoring 20 goals during the 2011-12 campaign, Malone has found the back of the net just 11 times in his past 81 contests.

Read more about the NHL's first buyout period

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY/Eric Hartline

May 11, 6:37 PM

Report: Lightning's Malone could still be the subject of compliance buyout despite legal issues

May 11, 6:37 PM

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone, who was arrested and charged with DUI and cocaine possession in early April, was a likely compliance buyout candidate even before his legal troubles; due mostly to his flagging offensive production and out-sized cap-hit.

Malone has battled a myriad of injuries while managing just 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 81 games over the past two seasons. He has two years remaining on a seven-year, $31.5 million dollar contract signed prior to the beginning of the 2008-09 season.

While Malone's contract carries a $4.5 million cap-hit for each of the next two years, he's due only $5 million in total salary in those seasons. Presumably that could make him a modestly attractive asset for a budget conscious "floor team," but that was before his arrest.

The Lightning grinder has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but as Tampa Bay Times reporter Damian Cristodero points out: "Given the circumstances, that seems a formality while his attorney tries to work out a deal with prosecutors." A trial date has not been set for Malone, as of this writing. 

Cristodero also suggests that Malone's pending legal issues will not impact the Lightnings' ability to exercise a "compliance buyout" on the final two years of Malone's contract:

That Malone is in the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program run jointly by the league and players association might not matter. Though the collective bargaining agreement does not specifically address the issue, it is believed the NHL's position is a player in the program can be bought out because his absence from the team is not hockey related.

The Lightning used their first of two possible compliance buyouts on Vincent Lecavalier's contract last summer, so the franchise has one buyout of the compliance variety remaining to use on Malone's deal should they decide to use it. The buyout window opens on June 15th or 48 hours after the end of the Stanley Cup Final (whichever is later), and closes on June 30th.

Should the Lightning decide not to use a compliance buyout this summer, they'll be unable to do so for the remainder of the term of the current NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement.

Apr 13, 3:43 PM

Lightning head coach says Malone's arrest won't be a distraction

Apr 13, 3:43 PM

WASHINGTON - Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper does not think left wing Ryan Malone's DUI and cocaine possession charges will be a distraction to the playoffs-bound team.

Cooper says Sunday that the Lightning are "really looking forward" to getting back Malone "at some point."

Malone did not travel with the team for its regular-season finale at the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

An officer saw Malone's SUV strike a curb after making a left turn from the centre lane early Saturday, Tampa Police Lt. Paul Lusczynski said. After being pulled over, Malone got out of his vehicle, and the officer smelled alcohol on his breath, Lusczynski said. According to the police report, the officer found 1.3 grams of cocaine in one of Malone's pockets.

Cooper says Malone "made a poor decision."

Apr 12, 1:42 PM

Lightning's Ryan Malone arrested on DUI, cocaine charges: Bill Daly releases statement

Apr 12, 1:42 PM

The NHL's Deputy Commissioner has released a statement regarding the arrest of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone:

We are aware of the situation this morning involving Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone. Under the terms of the collectively bargained joint NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, Mr. Malone is subject to mandatory evaluation and, if deemed necessary by the Program Doctors, treatment pursuant to the terms of that Program. His future playing status, both in the near term and during the Playoffs, will be determined in accordance the terms of our SABH Program.

Tampa Tribune beat writer Erik Erldensson has a more detailed account of what happened early Saturday morning:

According to arrest reports Malone was observed by officer striking a curb with his vehicle and was pulled over, officer smelled alcohol and conducted a field sobriety test, but Malone refused a breathalyzer. Officer searched Malone and found 1.3 grams of cocaine in Malone's right back pocket. Malone was taken in to custody on DUI charge and conducted breath test, and blew a .112 and .116. via @ErlendssonTBO

Apr 12, 8:39 AM

Lightning's Ryan Malone arrested on DUI, cocaine charges

Apr 12, 8:39 AM

Update

Malone was released from Hillsborough County Jail just before 10 am on $2,500 bail. 

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone was reportedly arrested early Saturday morning on charges of possession of cocaine and driving under the influence.

General manager Steve Yzerman has commented on the situation:

We are aware of the situation concerning Ryan Malone this morning. Ryan will not travel with the team to Washington today, but beyond that we cannot comment further at this time.

Malone has 15 points in 57 games played and has one year remaining on his contract.

As Sportsnet's John Shannon noted, Malone will automatically be put into the NHL/NHLPA's substance abuse program.