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Hull helps Stars' offence with trade for talented forward Brad Richards

FRISCO, Texas - Brett Hull's aggressive style on the ice produced 741 goals during a 19-year NHL career.

Hull took the same bold approach in his first big trade as general manager of the Dallas Stars when he landed centre Brad Richards from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a five-player deal.

Before it could be finalized, however, Hull and co-GM Les Jackson had to convince team owner Tom Hicks that taking on the last three years of Richards' contract, at US$7.8 million per season, made sense.

"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 Wednesday after Richards and goalie Johan Holmqvist were introduced at a news conference. "We didn't just come up with this on a whim. ... The numbers were crunched well beforehand. We got two great players."

The Stars hope Richards will help an already productive offence that is second in the Western Conference in goals behind the Detroit Red Wings.

Richards had 18 goals and 33 assists in 62 games for the Lightning in what has been a disappointing season. But in 2005-06, Richards scored 91 points, on 23 goals and 68 assists. The Stars are banking that a change of scenery will get Richards back on track.

"I've heard so many good things about this organization for a long time," said Richards, the playoffs MVP when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004. "Everybody I've talked to says they do everything right here, and that's why they've had the success they've had."

To obtain Richards and Holmqvist from Tampa Bay, the Stars sent backup goalie Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern and a fourth-round pick in next year's draft to the Lightning, who are last in the Eastern Conference and were looking to clear salary cap space.

"We've added two great pieces to the puzzle and they'll only get better as time goes on," Hull said. "With the players we already have, we have a solid team that can compete against anybody in the NHL."

Dallas has enjoyed plenty of regular-season success since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993, winning seven division titles. Since capturing the Stanley Cup in 1999, however, the Stars have been post-season flops, losing their last four playoff series.

"It's a lot different attitude here than where I'm coming from, knowing pretty much you're not going to be in the playoffs," Richards said. "It's exciting. You want those things on the line. No guarantees, but I'm confident I can help this team."

Richards practised with the Stars on Wednesday, 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."

The Stars have closed the gap on the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings, moving just five points behind. Richards waived a no-trade clause in his contract, paving the way for the deal to be completed.

"At this time of year, I didn't want to waive it just to go to another team," Richards said. "I knew this team had a chance to win. The last couple of years really wears on you mentally when you're fighting like we were just to try to win games, win one and lose three. That atmosphere wasn't fun, so when an opportunity like this came up, I waived the no-trade and here we are."

For Holmqvist, switching teams will mean fewer opportunities to play. Marty Turco has started 47 of Dallas' 67 games this season.

Holmqvist went 20-16 with a 3.01 goals-against average for the Lightning. Smith figures to get the bulk of the starts for Tampa Bay the rest of the season, but Holmqvist is still excited to join a team with a chance to make a playoff run even though he'll be a backup.

"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."

The Stars assigned defenceman Dan Jancevski and goalie Tobias Stephan to Iowa (AHL).


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