BRANDON — Ten years ago, Erik Condra was an usher in Lightning coach Jon Cooper's wedding.
For the next three seasons, Condra, 28, is expected to be a versatile, bottom-six winger and key penalty killer for Cooper, his former coach for Texarkana (NAHL). Tampa Bay signed Condra to a three-year, $3.75 million deal on Wednesday's first day of free agency.
"I was more than excited," said Condra, a right-shot who leaves the Senators after five seasons. "It's always nice to go to a top-end team that's competing for the Cup."
General manager Steve Yzerman still has to accomplish his No. 1 priority this offseason, which is to sign captain Steven Stamkos to a contract extension. While a deal wasn't completed Wednesday, the first day Stamkos (under contract for one more year) could sign, it's not considered cause for concern. These types of deals take time. Meanwhile, Yzerman took care of his likely only free agent acquisition. Yzerman said with Tampa Bay not planning to bring back wing Brenden Morrow, an unrestricted free agent, he wanted one more forward, and Condra was strongly recommended by scouts. Condra can play left or right wing on the third or fourth line, and takes pride in penalty killing.
"He's a real versatile player," Yzerman said. "He plays a lot of roles, lot of situations, up and down the lineup. His hockey sense is real good. We just felt it was a real good fit."
Condra, a former Notre Dame star, was expecting to stay with Ottawa, which drafted him in the seventh round in 2006. Condra was disappointed the Senators didn't match his other offers, but thrilled to end up in Tampa Bay, which fits his "up-tempo style."
It's been a wild year for Condra, who went from a healthy scratch to strong fourth-line contributor for the Senators. Condra had nine goals and 14 assists in 68 games.
"It's funny how this game works out sometimes," Condra said. "I showed at the end of the year, when I'm counted on, I can be productive."
Yzerman indicated the Lightning is now done in free agency. Tampa Bay only has around $1 million left in cap space (even with Mattias Ohlund on long-term injured reserve). It also has 13 forwards. But Yzerman said Condra's addition doesn't change the fact he expects Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin to get more opportunities next season.
"I'm counting on them to play a bigger role," Yzerman said.
Yzerman will likely turn his attention to Stamkos, who could warrant in the range of the eight-years, $84 million that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane got last summer. Yzerman continued to refuse to give daily updates.
Yzerman said he's still negotiating deals for restricted free agents Namestnikov and defenseman Luke Witkowski. Yzerman said letting defenseman Mark Barberio walk in free agency was strictly a financial decision. "We love Mark Barberio," Yzerman said.
Barberio signed a one-year, $600,000 deal with his hometown Canadiens Wednesday. "Just so excited," Barberio wrote in a text. "I'm just really pumped."
Tampa Bay is also considering whether to add an assistant coach to replace George Gwozdecky, who left after his two-year contract expired. Yzerman said a new assistant would likely be one who can help with the power play, which was inconsistent last season.
"We're not going to add a person to the staff just to add," Yzerman said. "We want to make sure it's the right fit."
Yzerman said management decided Condra was the right fit, and Cooper confirmed the Trenton, Mich., native's character.
Condra said Cooper, a friend of his parents, invited a few of his players and their families to his nuptials. Condra has kept in touch with Cooper, who was unavailable for comment.
"If you know Coop, I don't think it'll be strange at all," Condra said. "He's tight with all his players."