The Tampa Bay Lightning added to their depth at forward on the first day of NHL free agency, signing right wing Erik Condra to a three-year contract.
Condra, who is 28 currently and will be 29 by the start of the 2015-16 season, played all five of his NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators, who drafted him in the seventh round (211th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the organization had targeted Condra midway through the just-completed season for his versability and ability to fit into the Bolts system.
“His hockey sense is really good,” Yzerman said. “He’s a good competitor. His versatility…he can play either wing. He’s a good penalty killer and a smart player.”
Condra totaled career bests for goals (9) and plus-minus (plus-13) during the 2014-15 season with Ottawa. He had 23 points (9-14) in 68 regular season games for the Senators and added a goal in the postseason.
“It was definitely hard for me and my family,” Condra said of leaving Ottawa. “I‘ve been with Ottawa since I graduated Notre Dame. The organization has been unbelievable to me…To be honest, I was a little surprised. I thought I was going to be back in Ottawa.”
Condra said he’s looking forward to joining a Lightning team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
“It’s an up-and-coming team and excited to be part of that,” he said. “…I think this was the best opportunity for me and my family.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound right-handed Condra said he and his parents have known Lightning head coach Jon Cooper since his days in major midget hockey. Cooper coached a 17-year-old Condra while with the NAHL’s Texarkana Bandits, and Condra and his family were invited to Cooper’s wedding, where Condra served as an usher.
“He’s a great coach and a good players coach, and I respect him for that,” Condra said.
Condra had career marks for assists (17) and points (25) in his second season (2011-12) in the NHL. He played in 23 playoff games for Ottawa over three seasons, recording three goals and six assists.
In 2014-15, Condra averaged 14:27 time on ice and was a major contributor to Ottawa’s penalty kill, which ranked 11th during the regular season with an 82.9 percent success rate.
“I think over the past few years, I’ve taken huge pride in the PK and being one of the top guys in Ottawa for killing penalties and helping the structure there of the PK,” Condra said.
Primarily a right wing, Condra added he can played in any one of the forward positions.
“I played a lot more left wing last year than right wing,” he said. “I can play both. Playing a lot of that last year gives me the confidence I can play wherever.”
Yzerman said Condra’s signing fills a hole with the Lightning not bringing Brenden Morrow back. Morrow finishes his lone season in a Lightning sweater having played in 94 games (playoffs included), scoring three goals and adding five assists.
Morrow, 36, is an unrestricted free agent.
In other Lightning news, defenseman Mark Barberio did not receive a qualifying offer from the Lightning, a move that was strictly financial according to Yzerman.
“We love Mark Barberio,” Yzerman said. “He’s a good guy. He played well in his role.”
Barberio played in 103 NHL games over three seasons with the Lightning, tallying six goals, 11 assists and a plus-four plus-minus. Barberio, 25, saw action in three playoff games the last two seasons.
Barberio skated in 53 games (playoffs include) for Tampa Bay in 2014-15.
Yzerman said the team is in the process of trying to re-sign C Vladislav Namestnikov to a new deal after issuing a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent.
Namestnikov, the Bolts’ first-round draft pick in 2011 (27th overall), played in 43 games and totaled 16 points (9-7) during the 2014-15 season.
Yzerman also said the team is still in negotiations on a contract extension with captain Steve Stamkos, who has one year left on his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent.