It’s tough to lose one of your best players. You wonder who will replace him. You wonder if he’ll help another team win a Stanley Cup. You wonder how the heck you got to this point.But I really believe there are no bad guys in the Brad Richards situation, just bad timing.You have to cut Richards some slack. He went through a very traumatic time in Tampa Bay, and it clearly had a lasting effect on him. He wasn’t the one who pushed for a five-year contract that averaged $7.8 million when he was still a restricted free agent back in 2006. Tampa Bay willingly offered him the deal, and Richards would have been a fool to turn it down.But then when finances got tight and new Lightning owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules made a lot of mistakes, Richards was forced to waive his no-trade clause and move onto Dallas _ a sort of scapegoat for a bloated payroll.He thought he had found a steady home, but it became clear in the past two years that the Stars’ ownership situation was also messed up. While Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi might buy the team very soon, there’s a very good chance he might not. And what if whoever buys the Stars underestimates just how much money is being lost here. There is a lot of risk in buying a franchise like this, and the new owner might have to try to win on a budget.And if you were an unrestricted free agent with the ability to play anywhere, wouldn’t you want that chance? Let’s be serious. How many of you would make the exact same decision Cliff Lee made? Go to Philly and be a part of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball? Yeah, I get that.Richards is no different. He might not take the most money offered on July 1, but the guess here is he will sign with the team that he feels has the best chance to win.So he really has no obligation to the Stars other than to do what’s best for himself.That’s frustrating to Stars fans, but it’s what most of us would choose.Of course, if you’re not mad at Richards, you’re probably furious with Joe Nieuwendyk. How could the GM ever let this happen? Why didn’t he trade Richards in March and get something for him…anything for him?Well, he did get something _ a run at a possible playoff spot. Had Nieuwendyk traded Richards, he would have been sending a message to the team the future was more important than the present. He didn’t feel that way.In addition, the offers he received just weren’t good enough. Richards was recovering from a concussion and had to approve any trade. That made the deal intensely more complicated. In the end, Nieuwendyk said he didn’t ever ask Richards about a trade, because he just wasn’t that intrigued by what was on the table.So Richards came back, the team made a run, and it fell short. Would the Stars have faded more quickly without Richards? Would that have bought Marc Crawford another year as head coach? Was there a shock to the system for Nieuwendyk and Co. when things fell apart the way they did?And what about a potential sale? Did we believe enough in Bill Gallacher or Doug Miller or Tom Gaglardi to believe there would be plenty of time to negotiate with Richards? It certainly was a possibility.So it seems we should cut Nieuwendyk some slack on the trade deadline decision. He has pushed this team forward in a very difficult time. He found goalie Kari Lehtonen in exchange for a defenseman (Ivan Vishnevskiy) who is going back to Russia. He somehow acquired a 25-year-old puck moving defenseman in Alex Goligoski when most of us would have been happy with an aging Tomas Kaberle. He has been on the watch while scouts have turned up free agents Matt Fraser and Brenden Dillon.He has this thing moving in the right direction.So the team loses Richards and gets nothing in return (and my guess is he will not waive his no-trade clause, because it just doesn’t make sense to pick one team when you could be wooed by five or six on July 1)? That doesn’t mean the Stars can’t be good.They have a young roster, with emerging players like Goligoski, Lehtonen, Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Nicklas Grossman. They have some talented prospects who could be in the lineup as soon as next season. They have a ton of salary cap space, and they could have a new owner who allows them to spend some money.That’s a dangerous situation right there.So give Nieuwendyk a chance. Let him hire a new coach, adjust the assistants and take a shot at filling in a couple of top six forwards and a high-end defenseman. You might be surprised at how quickly he can fix things when he has a new owner and can shed the day-to-day uncertainty of the current lender-group regime.It’s a tough thing to do, but you just have to allow both Richards and Nieuwendyk to move forward without blame. Things happen. It is a business. And lessons have been learned.Hopefully, both sides can find a way to be happy. Sometimes, that's all you can hope for.