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Lightning trades Richards, exchanges goalies

What the Lightning did | The moves this week:

. Traded center Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for goalie Mike Smith, wing Jussi Jokinen, center Jeff Halpern and a 2009 fourth-round pick.

. Traded wing Jan Hlavac to the Predators for a seventh-round draft pick

. Signed defenseman Dan Boyle to a six-year deal worth $40-million

. Traded wing Vinny Prospal for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a draft pick

TAMPA — Mike Smith knows he is about to be tested.

The rookie knows the Lightning will be watching the season's final 20 games to see if he has what it takes to be a No.  1 goaltender.

He knows he will play for demanding coach John Tortorella, and that general manager Jay Feaster said if Smith does well, the team will try during the summer to sign him to a contract extension.

Hovering over it all is the price Tampa Bay paid to get him: center Brad Richards, one of the faces of the franchise and MVP of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup run, sent to the Stars in one of the biggest of the 25 deals made around the league's Tuesday trade deadline.

"Being a goaltender, the pressure is always there," Smith said before catching a 9:30 p.m. flight from Dallas to Tampa.

"Whether it's an extra thing because you were traded for a great player, it's not going to make that much difference. I'm an easygoing guy who doesn't get caught up in that stuff."

The trade sent Richards and goalie Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Smith, center Jeff Halpern, left wing Jussi Jokinen and a 2009 fourth-round draft choice.

Tampa Bay also sent under-performing left wing Jan Hlavac to the Predators for a 2008 seventh-round draft pick.

But Smith's acquisition was most important — moreso than the loss of Richards. The last-place Lightning has been a black hole for goalies since Nikolai Khabibulin starred during the Cup season, and Feaster said, "We feel (Smith) is a guy who has the tools to be a No.  1.

"We like the fact he competes. You typically don't see him out of position. He's a big body and covers a lot of net. He is very good at handling the puck, and one of the best in the league on the poke check. We think there's a complete player there."

Or at least a very confident player.

"The main thing is to come in and do what I can to give the team a chance to win every night," said Smith, 25, who will be in net against the Wild tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. "It will be interesting to see how I react to new situations, but I'm up for the challenge."

Feaster said the Lightning tried to acquire Smith for two years, so the evaluation process has been thorough.

"Every one of our pro scouts have had multiple viewings of him," he said. Goaltenders coach Jeff Reese has done video evaluations. Associate goaltenders coach Corey Schwab has "watched him live and on tape."

The process is basically the same as the one that identified mega-flop Marc Denis as a summer 2006 trade target. The difference, Feaster said, "is the number of eyes and number of looks we've had on him."

That includes defenseman Shane O'Brien, a teammate for half a season in 2000-01 for OHL Kingston.

"He's good," O'Brien said. "He's big, good angles and plays the puck well, and for defense-men that's huge. Smitty can make a pass to you in the corner and you can break out."

Smith even scored a goal in 2002-03 for ECHL Lexington.

"I got the puck behind the net, looked up and nobody was around, so I said, 'What the heck, let me throw this thing down there,' " Smith said.

Smith said his stick work has improved in two seasons as Marty Turco's backup.

"What he does with the puck is phenomenal," Smith said. "Just by watching him made me a better puck-handler."

And now the Lightning will watch Smith, 12-9-0 in 21 games this season with a 2.46 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage and two shutouts.

Feaster said it is unclear how the final 20 games will be split between Smith and Karri Ramo. Smith, 6 feet 3, 211 pounds, who has won his past three starts with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage, said it doesn't matter.

"Your ultimate goal growing up is to be a No.  1 goalie in the NHL," he said. "I'm excited about getting the opportunity" … to be put to the test.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

.Tonight

Lightning vs. Wild

When/where: 7:30; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM.

Injuries: Minnesota — Derek Boogaard, LW (back) is out. Tampa Bay — Ryan Craig, C (knee); Brad Lukowich, D (sports hernia) are out.

Key stats: The season's only meeting. … The teams have not played in Tampa since October 2003. … RW Marian Gaborik entered Tuesday's game with the Capitals leading the Wild with 33 goals and 63 points. … Entering Tuesday, Minnesota had not won in regulation since Feb. 2; it's four wins since then coming in overtime or by shootout.

Damian Cristodero,

Times staff writer

LW Jussi Jokinen

Age: 24

Height/weight: 5-11, 190

Contract status: Signed through 2008-09, $1.75-million this season, $1.875-million next season

C Jeff Halpern

Age: 31

Height/weight: 6 foot, 203

Contract status: Signed through 2009-10 at $2-million a year

G Mike Smith

Age: 25

Height/weight: 6-3, 211

Contract status: Signed through 2008-09 at $950,000 per season

Lightning trades Richards, exchanges goalies 02/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 12:59am]
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