Lightning trade Richards to Stars Staff

2/26/2008 8:29:44 PM

After much speculation, the Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to trade one of their 'Big Three' forwards, sending centre Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas Stars for goalie Mike Smith, centre Jeff Halpern, winger Jussi Jokinen and a fourth-round pick.

Richards, who makes $7.8 million a season through the 2010-11 camapaign, waived his no-trade clause for the deal to go through.

"I'm excited," Richards told TSN on Tuesday "I think I need to get refreshed with a new beginning. When Jay (GM Feaster) started talking about different teams, Dallas is one I had my eye on. They've got a good chance to win right now. They've got some great players that hopefully I'll be able to play with."

Richards signed a five-year, $39 million contract in 2006, with his average annual salary more than twice the $3.4 million he made in his previous deal.

''I've played on every team in my life since I was 14 with (Lecavalier). He's my best friend,'' Richards said. ''It goes without saying, that part was tough. But I kind of got past that mentally now. That's why I'm so excited.''

Richards, who waived his no-trade clause, said Dallas topped the list of teams he would consider joining.

Richards has 18 goals and 50 points in 61 games this season.

In 551 career NHL games, the 27-year-old centre has 150 goals and is the Lightning's career assists leader with 338. He had a career-high 91 points in 2005-06.

Meanwhile Smith will likely immediately become the Lightning's starting goaltender after an excellent season in Dallas as Marty Turco's backup.  He sports a 12-9 record with a 2.46 goals against average.

Also headed to Tampa is defensive specialist Jeff Halpern who will likely skate on the Lightning's third-line.  He has 10 goals and 14 assists this season with the Stars.

Jussi Jokinen has made a name for himself over the past three-seasons as a shootout specialist, however he has also contributed 14 goals and 14 assists in 52 games for the Stars this season.

NHL on TSN Analysis

Mike Milbury on Richards: "This is a guy that could turn it on.  He's a perfect fit for the Dallas Stars.This is a terrific move, although there is some work to be done in getting Richards back to what he was."

Matt Barnaby on Richards: "That's what they were lacking last year, that secondary scoring."

Matt Barnaby on the Lightning: "They haven't been the same without (Nikolai) Khabibulin.  Mike Smith is a great goalie."