PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired the short-term negotiating rights to Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts on Saturday for a conditional draft pick.
The deal allows the Lightning to talk exclusively to Malone and Roberts until the NHL free agency signing period begins Tuesday.
The Penguins didn't feel they could afford to re-sign either Malone, a Pittsburgh native who had 27 goals and 24 assists last season, or the 42-year-old Roberts, who made $2.5 million last season. Malone is believed to be seeking about $5 million per season.
Roberts was added late in the 2006-07 season to give the Penguins a more physical presence and a locker-room leader, but he missed more than half of last season with a broken left leg and a high ankle sprain.
Pittsburgh is focusing its attention on other key components of its Stanley Cup finalist team, including forward Marian Hossa - who wants to test free agency - and defenseman Brooks Orpik. The Penguins have 12 prospective unrestricted free agents.
The Penguins are expected to receive a fourth-round draft pick unless Malone signs with Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh would then receive a third-round pick. Tampa Bay acquired the fourth-round pick from Dallas in the Brad Richards trade.