Conacher, who started off his professional hockey career with a bang as a member of the Lightning organization after being overlooked for the draft, was traded almost exactly a year ago along with a 4th round pick in exchange for Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop.
Bishop has 29 wins and a .932 save percentage in 47 games.
On the other hand, Conacher has struggled, failing in several auditions in a top-6 role for the Sens alongside both Kyle Turris and Jason Spezza. His minutes have slowly been whittled down this year, and he's scored just 20 points (4 goals, 16 assists) in 59 games. That leaves the small, skilled forward available to the other 29 NHL teams who want to make a claim on his contract.
Conacher is in the final year of a 2-year deal he signed with the Tampa Bay organization before the 2012-2013 season, so he has no term left and will be a restricted free agent this summer no matter who claims him. He'd be essentially a free addition to any team looking for a little extra scoring, and he comes very, very cheap. The deal he's on only pays him $925,000 in salary this year. The Sens have already paid over 75% of that salary in the form of game checks and signing bonuses. Prorated, Conacher is only going to cost you a little over $200,000 in actual salary and less than $1 million against the cap.
So sure, he's cheap, but why hasn't he been scoring in Ottawa?
The biggest culprit is his personal shooting percentage. After shooting over 16% in his rookie year with Tampa Bay, he's down to 5.7% with the Sens. That tells you half the story of why he only has 4 goals this year. The other half is his diminishing role and ice-time, which has snowballed as he's continued to struggle. He's playing just 12:20 per game this year on average, a number that has gone down over the course of the season as he lost his chance to stick in the top-6 for Ottawa.
Sure, he plays a position the Lightning are strongest at, and doesn't add anything unique in terms of role or skillset. But he's a talented player in a tough situation in Ottawa. He's proven to be successful with Jon Cooper's system (which he wouldn't have to learn) and he'll cost almost nothing. With the team still dealing with a banged up top-6, why not add him?
The real barrier will be of course, waiver priority. It's very unlikely that with the Lightning 11th in overall league standings, the other 18 teams with priority won't put a claim on Conacher for the reasons just laid out.
We'll know tomorrow.