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The Dallas Stars will acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards in a multi-player trade and Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa is heading to the Montreal Canadiens before the NHL trade deadline, an executive within the league said Monday night.

The Stars have looked to make a splash since Les Jackson and Brett Hull took over in the co-general manager role for the fired Doug Armstrong earlier this season. The source said Dallas is expected to package veteran checking center Jeff Halpern, backup goalie Mike Smith and young defenseman Mark Fistric to the Lightning, who needed to move Richards after signing defenseman Dan Boyle to a six-year, $40 million contract extension late Monday.

The Stars have surprised most with their success, too, especially with Sergei Zubov missing so much time lately because of injury. But they're undersized at the center position and probably won't match up favorably in the Western Conference playoff picture without an upgrade.

By landing the 6-foot, 198-pound Richards, the Stars are set to receive a player who can handle loads of ice time, has a Stanley Cup on his resumé and is a centerpiece to build around as Mike Modano and Zubov look to pass the torch.

Richards has 18 goals and 51 points in 62 games, 228 shots and has averaged 24:17 of ice time. He's durable as well. Richards has appeared in 552 of a possible 554 games since breaking into the league in 2000-01. The pivot is signed for $7.8 million each of the next three seasons.

Expect the Canadiens to send at least a forward (Michael Ryder?) to Atlanta, which insisted it would only trade the 29-year-old Hossa if it could get a current NHL player in return. Hossa is the Thrashers' second-leading scorer with 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists and a team-high 229 shots). Hossa is a minus-14 averaging 21:55 of ice time in 60 games.

The Thrashers were in a tough spot with Hossa, who is due to be an unrestricted free agent and could walk come July 1. But getting prospects or draft picks in return – the deal offered most because contenders don't want to part with talent – wouldn't help Atlanta's bid to win the Southeast Division and reach this year's postseason. The Thrashers trail Carolina by seven points but have two games in-hand and face the Hurricanes three more times.

Montreal GM Bob Gainey, who appears to have outbid the Ottawa Senators for Hossa, pointed out last week the team traded for Alexei Kovalev at the trade deadline in 2004, and despite only playing 12 games with the Canadiens at the end he decided to re-sign in Montreal.

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