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Richards Eager to Win Again

by Ken Sins / Dallas Stars

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Brad Richards hoisted a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004, but those heady days are distant memories. This version of the Lightning has the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, and the 27-year-old centerman was ready for a change of scene.

The Stars were eager to oblige, adding the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy-winner plus goaltender Johan Holmqvist in Tuesday’s trading-deadline deal with the Lightning.

One major difference between the Stars and the Lightning is that Richards won't be expected to bear as much of the scoring load in Dallas than he did in Tampa Bay along with Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

The Stars have been thriving with a scoring-by-committee approach, having 10 players with 10 or more goals.

"In Tampa we had three or four guys carrying the team and that put a lot of pressure on us,” Richards said on Wednesday at an introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility in Frisco.

"Here it's a lot more spread out. It'll be fun to have that support. I love Tampa. We won a championship there. But there are only three or four guys left from that team. They had a budget and things didn't work out the way we would have liked. Here they're committed to win every year and that's a great opportunity, a great fresh start.”

Richards waived the no-trade clause in his contract to agree be dealt to the Stars, an encouraging sign for coach Dave Tippett.

"He chose to come here,” Tippett said."That he wants to be here speaks volumes about him and about what he can do for us.”

Co-general managers Brett Hull and Les Jackson put in long hours to pour the foundation for the deal that sent reserve goaltender Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round pick in next year's draft to Tampa Bay, which is attempting to rebuild and wants to clear space under the salary cap.

But before the trade could be finalized, Hull and Jackson had to get the approval of owner Tom Hicks.

"Obviously there's trepidation and nerves going in, thinking that he might say no, but he didn't because that's just the way he is,” Hull said. "We didn't just come up with this on a whim. This was well thought-out. The numbers were crunched well beforehand. We got two great players. The hard work beforehand made it easier for sure.

“Mr. Hicks is probably the best owner in the NHL for sure and probably beyond that. He wants to win and he wants to do what's best for his team. He's the guy we answer to.

“You can't just say, 'This guy is a good player, I'm gonna go get him.' You have to check to see how it's going to impact your team, how's it going to impact the chemistry and the community and everything else. These all fit into place with these guys. They're going to be Dallas Stars for a long time.”

Richards joins an already potent offense that is second in the Western Conference in goal-scoring behind the Detroit Red Wings.

Richards collected 18 goals and 33 assists in 62 games for the Lightning this season. He’s shown he can post better numbers, however, like he did in 2005-06 when he amassed 91 points (23 goals, 68 assists) for Tampa Bay.

Richards is excited about the fresh start.

“This team, the way they've been playing, a lot of people have been following what they've been doing,” Richards said. “I've heard so many good things about this organization for a long time. They've been a great team for a long time, they won a Stanley Cup before I got in the league. Everybody I've talked to says they do everything right here and that's why they've had the success they've had.”

Richards practiced in Frisco on Wednesday morning, his first chance to get to know many of his new teammates.

"It's pretty overwhelming,” Richards said."This is the first time I've gone through (a trade). It's good to get out there with the guys and get a sweat going. I can't wait to get out there and start playing, get to know the guys.”

Most of the buzz concerning the trade has been about Richards, but Holmqvist is also aboard.

The deal means fewer starting opportunities for Holmqvist, with Marty Turco having started 47 of Dallas' 67 games this season. Holmqvist started 45 times for Tampa Bay, compiling a 20-16 record with a 3.01 goals-against average.

Despite the backup role, Holmqvist is enthused about the change of address.

"I just want to come in and compete," Holmqvist said. "Marty's a great goalie. I look forward to working with him, learning from his experience.”
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