It’s early yet, but the first indications of what the Tampa Bay Lightning will be able to expect out of their primary free agent acquisition from this offseason are highly encouraging.
Erik Condra, a 29-year-old right winger brought in from the Ottawa Senators, was seen as a necessary depth piece to provide stability to Tampa Bay’s right wing slots in the bottom two lines. He filled that role admirably for the Ottawa Senators throughout his career there, and the player known for his consistency has carried that over to the Lightning very nicely.
Let’s take a deeper look at what Condra did in his time with Ottawa, and how his past performance paints a very clear picture about what can be expected out of him as his time with the Lightning marches on.
Condra was always somewhat of an underrated player throughout his time with the Senators. While his 1.22 points per 60 minutes at even strength over the prior four seasons suggest that he would be somewhat miscast in a top six role, they do indicate that he’s fully equipped to handle being a reliable player in a bottom six capacity.
That reliability is undoubtedly a huge part of what drew general manager Steve Yzerman to secure Condra’s services in July. According to war-on-ice.com, hroughout Condra’s past four seasons in Ottawa, there was not a single one in which Condra’s points per 60 minutes dipped below one or where his even-strength corsi share dropped beneath 50%.
Not only was Condra driving play above 50%, but he was also better at doing so than his team was without him on the ice in three of the four years. The only season of the last four in which Condra failed to have a positive corsi relative number was last season, and even then he was by no means a drag on his team as his number was a mere -0.3%. In the three years preceding that, Condra’s corsi relative numbers were +1.1%, +2.8%, and +2.1%. It goes without saying that having a player who you can rely on for adequate depth scoring and above average possession driving is a valuable asset for any team.
A Bolt In Blue
That brings us to Condra’s role with the Lightning. Obviously, the Lightning are a superb hockey club, as evidenced by their impressive run to the Stanley Cup Final just last season. However, they were not a team without weaknesses. While it was inspiring to see Brenden Morrow come so close to capturing the Stanley Cup at the end of his long and decorated NHL career, the simple fact of the matter was that he wasn’t good enough to deserve a spot in the lineup as the season wore on.
Morrow was often dressed ahead of young phenom Jonathan Drouin, who coach Jon Cooper did not feel was suited well enough to handle a bottom six role in the postseason. With Morrow moving on from the club and Drouin poised to step into a top six role this season, that left a gaping hole in the team’s bottom six, which meant a golden opportunity to firm up a weak spot in a big way.
As Yzerman is known for doing, he did not waste any time in filling this void. On the first day of free agency, Condra was signed to a three year deal that Cap Friendly has as being worth an average annual value of $1.25 million.
The Lightning knew exactly what they were signing up for in grabbing Condra. As I alluded to earlier, the winger is extremely consistent in producing an output that definitely qualifies as adequate for a third line winger or outstanding for a fourth line winger. Just five games into a three season contract, it’s impossible to make any bold claims about Condra breaking out as a late-blooming top six sensation. I don’t expect that to happen, and neither should fans of the team.
However, it’s perfectly reasonable to be excited about Condra’s start, because with two points in five games and a corsi share of 52.8% at even-strength, it’s more or less exactly what Lightning fans can come to expect out of their new depth winger.