The Penguins have known for a while that Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts wouldn't be part of their lineup next season.
Yesterday, general manager Ray Shero made certain the team will have more than good memories to show for their departures.
He traded the negotiating rights to Malone and Roberts, both of whom are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday, to Tampa Bay for a conditional draft choice in 2009.
The draft choice will be a fourth-rounder the Lightning acquired previously from Dallas unless Malone signs with Tampa Bay, in which case it will be upgraded to a third-rounder.
Malone, the first Western Pennsylvania native to play for the Penguins, made $1.45 million in 2007-08 and appears to be in line for a salary of about $5 million. If the Lightning doesn't reach an agreement with him, Columbus, Minnesota and the New York Rangers, among others, could enter the bidding.
Roberts, 42, figures to take a cut from the $2.5 million he got last season. He had to waive a no-trade clause before the deal could go through, which suggests he will at least consider signing with Tampa Bay.
With Malone and Roberts out of the mix, Shero holds exclusive negotiating rights to 10 unrestricted-free-agents-to-be who finished the 2007-08 season on the Penguins' major-league roster for two more days.
Although he has yet to work out new contracts with any of them, that shouldn't necessarily be construed as evidence that Shero doesn't want -- or won't be able -- to strike deals with at least some. Negotiations are sure to intensify, beginning today.
"When things are time-sensitive, they get a little more urgent on both sides," Shero said yesterday.
Mind you, not all 10 are in play for the Penguins, at least at the moment. Center Kris Beech and goalie Ty Conlin don't appear to have a place in the team's plans and winger Marian Hossa has made it known he plans to see what he can get on the open market.
Retaining defenseman Brooks Orpik is a front-burner issue and, while the parties have imposed a virtual blackout on information about the negotiations, the Penguins probably shouldn't expect to do it for less than $3.5 million per season.
Some inside the organization believe the Penguins still have a realistic shot to keep Hossa, who has rejected an offer believed to have been worth about $7 million per season over five years. Still, if Shero moves aggressively to re-sign role players such as Jarkko Ruutu, Pascal Dupuis and Adam Hall, among others, before Tuesday, the Penguins might not have the space needed under the league's $56.7 million salary cap to comfortably accommodate a new deal for Hossa.
Players and prospects currently under contract to the Penguins who figure to play in the NHL during the coming season, and their cap hits, are:
Forwards -- Sidney Crosby, $8.7 million; Evgeni Malkin, $3,834,200; Petr Sykora, $2.5 million; Jordan Staal, $2.2 million; Max Talbot, $675,000 and Tyler Kennedy, $541,667.
Defensemen -- Sergei Gonchar, $5 million; Ryan Whitney, $4 million; Darryl Sydor, $2.5 million; Hal Gill, $2,075,000; Alex Goligoski, $984,200; Kris Letang, $835,000 and Rob Scuderi, $712,500.
Goalie -- Dany Sabourin, $512,500.
In addition to negotiating with his unrestricted free agents, Shero is trying to work out a long-term deal with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and new contracts for Malkin and Staal, although their current ones will remain in effect through the 2008-09 season.