Brad Richard began his professional career with the Tampa Bay Lightning for his first 7 seasons. His impressive achievements with the team are now only a memory while his legacy is still resonating with the Lightning through alternate captain Eric Brewer and a player we will call TBD for now.
How does this all exactly make sense? Well, it is a process 6 years in the making that stems from Richards' departure from the club in 2008. A string of transactions and assets retained and moved since that time directly and indirectly connect back to Brad.
The 2007-08 Lightning struggled, with goaltending the focus of those struggles far too often. Then-GM Jay Feaster sought a long-term solution in goal, and thought he found it in the Dallas Stars organization with backup Mike Smith. The asset he sought to use at the time, with hopes of solving several Lightning problems at once, was Richards.
Richards had signed a 5-year, $39-million contract after the 2005-06 season, his production level (which paled in comparison to Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on the "M-V-P" line with Vaclav Prospal) in conjunction with his large salary made him expandable. At the time, Richards was the highest paid professional athlete in Tampa Bay pro sports.
Moments before the 2008 trade deadline, Richards was shopped to Dallas along with goaltender Johan Holmqvist for Mike Smith and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, as well as a 2009 4th round draft pick.
And so starts the string from the Brad Richards trade.
Jokinen was put on waivers by GM Brian Lawton a year later. Mike Smith, who did provide the Bolts with decent goaltending before being shaken by concussion issues in 2009-10 and massive struggles in 2010-11 that included a demotion to the AHL at one point, left through free agency in 2011. The 2009 4th round draft pick was traded just before the start of the 2008 free agent signing period to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to pending-free agent forward Brian Rolston. Rolston did not sign with Tampa Bay.
In general, the trade stock produced little forward payout except for Jeff Halpern. After a 126 game career with the Bolts that spanned from 2008 NHL trade deadline until the 2010 trade deadline (where he scored a total of 26 goals and 25 assists), Halpern was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for a 2010 3rd round draft pick, and an originally undrafted right winger named Teddy Purcell.
The 3rd round draft pick was used by GM Steve Yzerman to select defenseman Brock Beukeboom. Beukeboom's time with the Lightning organization was short-lived, as 8 months later he was traded to the St. Louis Blues along with a 2011 3rd round draft pick for defenseman Eric Brewer (who had been serving as Blues team captain at the time, and was brought in to help Tampa Bay's 2011 playoff run).
Yet just a week ago, the string from the Richards trade started to stretch yet again, as Purcell was moved from Tampa Bay in an unpredicted trade to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Sam Gagner. For the record, Teddy's career in Tampa was 310 games long, with 67 goals and 136 assists in that time. Gagner was almost immediately flipped, along with B.J. Crombeen, to the Arizona Coyotes for a, well, 2015 6th round draft pick. Whatever the Lightning does with this pick continues the string of Richard's exit from the franchise. That, and also veteran defenseman Eric Brewer who is entering the final season of a 4-year contract he has under Tampa Bay. Will Brewer be left to walk after the season, re-signed, traded during it? We'll find out in time.
Trade strings like this play out in the NHL all the time, you just have to do a bit of research to see how far they stretch back. Ultimately, though, the length of a trade string is not as important as the production you get out of the players involved.