Condra, Conacher, Vermin put on waivers
With the Lightning nearing a Tuesday 5 p.m. deadline, it made some moves today to create some flexibility for what'll likely be some tough decisions.
Veteran Erik Condra, along with fellow forwards Cory Conacher and Joel Vermin, were placed on waivers Monday. The team will know if they clear by noon Tuesday.
Coach Jon Cooper warned not to read too much into the moves, noting it doesn't necessarily guarantee all three will be sent to AHL Syracuse if they clear. They just can be.
"As an organization, we're trying to give ourselves as much flexibility as possible in who we keep and what is going to give us the best opportunity to field the best team we can Thursday night," Cooper said. "And sometimes, finances come into play in that. In a salary cap era, that's what you're going to get. We're not the only team doing this type of thing. Just because players on waivers doesn't necessarily mean.. that could mean a bunch of things. It's all about flexibility and the future of us moving forward and some of those things have to be done."
Technically, all three could still be on the Lightning roster. They were among 23 active players at Monday's practice in Brandon (wing Ryan Callahan skated but will start season on long-term injured reserve).
But there's a lot of moving parts here. There's growing optimism that restricted free agent wing Nikita Kucherov could be signed any day now, before Thursday's opener. If Kucherov is signed, prospect Brayden Point could get sent down to AHL, where he'd be able to play a top line role as opposed to a bottom-six, extra forward role in the NHL. The Lightning could also elect to carry just 13 forwards on its roster instead of 14.
The financial flexibility comes into play this way. The first $950,000 of a player's salary doesn't count towards the cap if he's sent to the AHL. So Conacher's $575,000 wouldn't count if in Syracuse, and just $300,000 of Condra's $1.25 million would.
Conacher, who entered camp on one-way deal, knew he'd have to fight for a roster spot. He said he hopes to stay in the organization and will stay ready for a callup if he's sent down. Conacher said he felt like he got better as the preseason went on, scoring one goal.
"I knew it was going to be tough, I knew there was a lot of competition," Conacher said. "And I'm not done yet. Whether they send me down or not, I'll get in games, do my best to get called back up."
Condra was not available for comment after practice. He is entering the second year of a three-year, $3.75 million deal signed before last season. Condra wasn't as effective as expected last season, often finding himself a healthy scratch down the stretch, and in the playoffs. Even if Condra makes the team, he'll be battling for his spot in the lineup nightly.
The Lightning has one open spot to start the season with Callahan (hip surgery) on LTI, so even if Kucherov signs tomorrow, at least one of these is likely to be on the team.
We'll find out at 5 p.m. Tuesday.