Stars Co-General Manager Brett Hull was all-smiles on Tuesday afternoon, meeting with the media after the announcement that the team had acquired forward Brad Richards from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a five-player deal. And he had good reason.
“Brad Richards is a special player,” he said. “Right here we have a guy who has won the Stanley Cup, won the Olympic Gold Medal, won the Conn Smythe trophy being the MVP of the NHL playoffs. Since the trade went down Les and I have gotten calls from all over the league, from not only media that have known Brad, but he's gotten endorsements from his GM in Tampa Jay Feaster, from Wayne Gretzky who has given him rave reviews from him not only as a player but as a person. When you get people like that saying the things they are saying about him, you know you've got a quality guy."
The bottom line could be summed up with four words from Hull.
“We got better today.”
Richards is a big fish and of course the Stars were looking for someone that could play with center Mike Modano. Hull and Co-GM Les Jackson went a step further and landed a player that can play with almost anyone on the Stars’ top lines.
"I think this deal is more than (just someone that can play with Modano); this is a big deal to compliment the Dallas Stars as a whole and the organization that has been put together. Anytime you can get a player of Brad Richards’ quality, not only on the ice but off, that is something you have to do."
To get quality, you have to also give up quality. The Stars get Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist in the trade. Going to Tampa Bay is goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern and winger Jussi Jokinen – all good players and character individuals.
"We are very excited to have the new players, but at the same time the three players that have gone to Tampa have put their heart and soul into the Dallas Stars,” Hull said. “Smitty has a bright future in front of him and Jeff and Jussi gave us a lot in their time here. We appreciate everything they have done, and we wish them the best of luck in the future in Tampa."
Where does Hull see Richards playing?
"He could play anywhere he wants, that¹s the type of player he is,” he said. “He could play left wing with Mike (Modano), he could play center and throw Mike on the wing, he could play center and we could have three lines, and you could merge them. Dave Tippett has got has got a lot of things he could do.
"I can tell you this - before I ever got this job I always said if I had a team I'd love to have Brad Richards on it. He’s been called the ‘Joe Sakic of the East’ by some. He’s a special player and we are very happy to have him."
The process was a learning experience for Hull and Jackson, in their first season as GM during the trading deadline. But the two had a plan and stuck to their guns.
"There were times in the last 48 hours where things looked dicey, but we had said we were willing to walk away rather than mortgage the future,” Hull said. “Les and I said coming in that we were going to build this team the right way. We were not going to take away the future to get what we need. It worked out, and we ended up just adding a fourth round pick next year to finish the deal off. I give a lot of credit to everyone that was in there - Les Jackson, Dave Taylor, Frank Provenzano, and Scott White. We were all in there, and a lot of support is needed, especially for a guy like me being the first time I've been involved with this. I owe them a lot of thanks."
Did Hull and Jackson feel pressure to make a big trade at the deadline? Only if it was the right one.
"That was a big topic going into these last two days,” Hull said. “No matter what, you look at everything with teams calling and offering this and wanting that. We just kept looking at ourselves and our team on the wall and saying, ‘You know if we don't make a deal with the team we have, we are second in the western conference and its no easy feat getting there.’ We felt that with this deal, we have made our team better, we have made our team more competitive, and that was our goal."