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Stars add a star in Brad Richards

by Shawn P. Roarke

Lightning center Brad Richards has been sent to the Dallas Stars, along with goaltender Mike Smith, in exchange for forward Jussi Jokinen, defenseman
Jeff Halpern, and goaltender Johan Holmqvist.
Brad Richards video highlights
The Dallas Stars finally got the piece that they feel is needed to emerge from the pack of contenders in the Western Conference, obtaining Brad Richards from the Tampa Bay Lightning in one of Tuesday’s blockbuster deals.

Dallas sacrificed young goalie Mike Smith, shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen and defensive specialist Jeff Halpern to get Richards and backup goalie Johan Holmqvist. Richards, who is under contract until 2011, waived his no-movement clause to join the Stars.

Richards is the type of player who can help Dallas get through a rugged Western Conference field that spent Tuesday trying to upgrade for the postseason tournament.

“Brad is a difference-maker and one of the premier playmakers in the National Hockey League,” said Stars Co-General Manager Les Jackson. “At 27 years of age, he is in the prime of his playing career and a proven winner who has elevated his game to the highest levels in the playoffs. Johan Holmqvist is a reliable NHL goaltender and somebody that we will be confident in each time he is in net. It was difficult to part ways with Jeff, Jussi and Mike, since they are all consummate professionals who have done great things for our organization. Tampa Bay is getting a solid trio of players and we thank them for all they did for the Dallas Stars.”

“We are thrilled to acquire Brad Richards, a top-line talent who can play with any combination of line-mates,” Co-General Manager Brett Hull said. “His Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 2004 playoffs shows he is capable of great things in the postseason. He is certainly a major addition to our group.”

San Jose, another top club in the West, traded for All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell earlier in the day. Detroit, six points ahead of the Stars, admitted it is looking to make a move before Tuesday’s deadline. Anaheim, in fourth place, added Teemu Selanne three weeks ago. Colorado, trying to get into the top-eight in the West, signed free-agent center Peter Forsberg Monday night.

So, Dallas answered by getting the best two-way center on the market, a player who won the Conn Smyth Trophy as playoff MVP back in 2004.

Richards has 18 goals and 50 assists in 61 games this season, but is playing to a League-worst minus-25 rating. But there is a common believe that part of Richards’ struggles are the result of the problems the Lightning have suffered through in 2007-08. Tampa Bay has the second-worst record in the League and sits 12 points out of the playoff picture.

So Dallas believes that Richards could return to the form that made him one of the beset players in the game just a few years ago. Just two years ago, Richards had a career-best 91 points. Plus, Richards has a proven track record as a big-game player. Not only has he won the Stanley Cup as the tournament’s MVP, but he was also named the MVP of the Memorial Cup while playing junior hockey for Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Most importantly, Richards is a better than a point-per-game player in the postseason. In the NHL, he has 47 points in 45 games. In junior hockey, he put up 96 points in just 48 postseason games.

For Tampa Bay, the Richards deal was just the lastest move in a busy 24 hours.

In fact, the dominoes began to fall last night when GM Jay Feaster was able to come to terms with puck-moving defense Dan Boyle on a new long-term deal. Boyle signed for six years and his hefty contract made Richards more expendable as Feaster tried to keep his salary cap under control.

"Brad is a difference-maker and one of the premier playmakers in the National Hockey League." - Stars Co-General Manager Les Jackson

Then, Feaster shipped off winger Vaclav Prospal to Philadelphia in exchange for promising minor-league defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional (second- or third-round) pick in next year’s Entry Draft.

Tuesday, though, was the coup de grace for Feaster, who actively tried to accelerate his team’s rebuilding process with the trade of Richards.

Most importantly, the club believes that it may have finally gotten the starting goalie it has sought since Tampa Bay let Nikolai Khabibulin walk away after winning the Cup in 2004. Smith, 27, was the backup in Dallas, but was pushing Marty Turco for playing time.

Smith was 12-9 with two shutouts in 21 appearances, posting a 2.46 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Last year, in 23 appearances with the Stars, Smith posted a 2.23 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Jokinen, meanwhile, is a depth scorer who has made a name for himself with his ability to be successful in the shootout. Jokinen, 24, has 14 goals this season and could surpass his career-high of 19 goals set two years ago during his rookie season.

In Halpern, the Lightning get a 31-year-old center who can handle a bulk of the team’s defensive duties and win a majority of his faceoffs. Halpern also has 10 goals this year, the sixth time in eight seasons that he has reached double digits in goals.

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