ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild traded the rights to star forward Brian Rolston to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional draft pick Sunday.
The Wild will get a selection in either the 2009 or 2010 draft, with Wild spokesman Aaron Sickman saying Sunday night it will depend on whether Tampa Bay re-signs Rolston.
On Saturday, the Lightning acquired the rights to Pittsburgh forwards Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts for a conditional draft pick. TSN reported Sunday night that Tampa Bay had signed Malone to a seven-year, US$35.1 million deal.
The deals allow the Lightning to talk exclusively to Rolston, Malone and Roberts until the NHL free-agency signing period begins Tuesday.
“As we said earlier this week and we are trying to prove after making our deal with Pittsburgh (Saturday), we will work feverishly to improve the Lightning team for the 2008-09 season,” Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie said in a joint statement.
“We believe getting the Lightning a head start in the negotiating and signing process can help us secure the players we are targeting. Nothing is guaranteed here, but we hope to have a chance to get another quality player in a Lightning uniform sooner rather than later.”
Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said recently that if a deal wasn’t reached by Tuesday, it would likely signal the end of Rolston’s days in Minnesota.
Minnesota had been hoping to retain the 35-year-old Rolston for a few more years after getting 96 goals and 106 assists from him over the last three seasons.
Rolston had been one of Minnesota’s most consistent and reliable players, missing only five games over his first three seasons with the Wild.
Rolston, who hit the 30-goal mark three consecutive seasons for the Wild, sent text messages to Twin Cities newspapers earlier Sunday saying he was “going to the first of July.” He did not elaborate, and it wasn’t immediately clear Sunday night whether he still planned to become a free agent Tuesday or if would try to reach a deal with Tampa Bay.