TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning hired Todd Richards on Tuesday as an assistant on coach Jon Cooper's staff.

Richards most recently served as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and previously coached the Minnesota Wild. Tampa Bay is his fifth NHL organization after time with Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Minnesota and Columbus.

General manager Steve Yzerman hired Richards despite not having a previous relationship with him. Richards said he has heard great things about Cooper and is looking forward to working with associate coach Rick Bowness and assistant Brad Lauer.

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"There's something about relationships in the business that we're in and knowing what to expect when you go in," Richards said by phone. "But I think there's something about going in and being completely different and new. That's exciting for me."

Richards replaces Steve Thomas, who spent the past two seasons with the Lightning.

The 49-year-old Richards has more than 400 games of NHL head-coaching experience and has coached for USA Hockey at the world championships and Olympics. He was an assistant for the Sharks when they won the Presidents' Trophy in 2008-09.

Richards had been considered a top candidate for other assistant coaching vacancies this offseason after being fired by Columbus in October. He chose the Lightning.

"The people that I respect in the NHL, the people that I lean on -- GMs and coaches -- all had great things to say about the organization," Richards said.