Are the Leafs after Malone?

So Brian Burke may have to set his sights a little lower looking six weeks ahead to the Feb. 27 trade deadline after making big deals to acquire Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul the last three seasons.

Not just a little lower. Also at a financial cost that may be less appealing.

Which brings us once more to Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Ryan Malone, once one of the more highly regarded power forwards in the game, now less of a force for the Bolts, who sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings right now.

The 6-foot-4 winger would, nonetheless, look good in the Leaf lineup. But he’s 32 years old, has only nine goals in 38 games this season and carries a contract that comes with a salary cap hit of $4.5 million the next three years after this one.

The money-losing Lightning might well like to shed that deal, particularly with more than $20 million annually tied up in Vinny Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. But with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire after this season, is it the kind of contract a team like Toronto would like to add?

We’ve already seen some movement like that around the league. Last week, Calgary added winger Mike Cammalleri at a cost of a deal that will pay him $7 million in cash the next two years, more than the annual cap hit of $6 million. Montreal, meanwhile, added defenceman Tomas Kaberle earlier this season in a trade with Carolina, and Kaberle is owed $4.25 million per season for the next two years.