Scott Cullen takes a look at the top stories from January 24th through January 30th, including Martin Brodeur retiring as a Blue, Mike Richards on waivers, All-Star weekend, Spezza returns to Ottawa and more. John Shonk Jersey Store . BRODEUR RETIRES A BLUE The NHLs all-time leader in goaltender wins, losses, shutouts and games played, a three-time Stanley Cup winner (with two more trips to the Cup Final) with the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur retired this week...as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Brodeur played 1259 games over 21 seasons with the Devils and played a prominent role there well after he was an effective NHL goaltender. Even so, the 42-year-old wasnt ready to call it quits after last season so he took an opportunity to play for the Blues when Brian Elliott suffered a knee injury in late November. Brodeur appeared in seven games for the Blues, starting five, and posted an .899 save percentage, an indication that he wasnt a viable long-term solution for a team with realistic Stanley Cup aspirations. So, fine, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But when Brodeur decided that it was time to retire, he did it as a member of the Blues, a team with which he had spent a couple of months. While Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has said the right things publicly, indicating that there will be an opening for Brodeur in the New Jersey organization long-term, Brodeur also noted that the Devils didn’t have that opening now and seemed to be surprised that the offer for a post-career front office job was coming from the Blues and not the Devils. There was talk about some kind of ceremony being done, in the future, in New Jersey, but that’s going to be strange, too. A player doesn’t retire more than once, at least not without coming back to play again, and that’s not necessary here. If Brodeur really has a job for life, or some kind of open invite with the Devils, it makes no sense to have a future Hall of Famer retiring for a different team. RICHARDS ON WAIVERS NHL players go on waivers just about every day. The league sends out an e-mail around noon that shows who is going on waivers, who has been claimed and who has cleared. Usually, it’s standard fringe players, guys that haven’t been able to earn a full-time spot and are on their way to the minors; sometimes it’s a player on the way to having their contract terminated so that they can play in Europe. Rarely, if ever, is it a difference-maker. Earlier this week, though, the Los Angeles Kings placed Mike Richards on waivers. Richards, 29, has won two Stanley Cups with the Kings over the past four seasons, since arriving in a trade from Philadelphia, but he’s played a career-low 13:42 per game this season and is a third or fourth-line player signed to a contract that comes with a $5.75-million cap hit for five more seasons. There’s no argument that Richards is not performing up to the expectations that go with that kind of contract, but there is still a case to be made that Richards can be a useful NHL player if the opportunity presents itself. The challenge, now, is finding a way to give Richards that opportunity elsewhere if he’s not going to do it with the Kings. It may not happen via trade, because of concerns that salary cap recapture penalties would be punitive to the Kings, especially if Richards retired with one or two years remaining on his deal. If the salary cap recapture issue is what prevents Richards from getting dealt, then he had better hope for a buyout next summer (which is really a year late for the Kings, who could have used a compliance buyout on Richards last summer) and work on getting in shape to perform for a new team, if he wants to resurrect his quickly fading career. ALL-STAR SHINNY While all indications are that Columbus was a very good host for the NHL All-Star Weekend, the first such event the league has hosted since 2012 (due to the Olympics in 2014 and lockout in 2013), the game itself was a dud, even by All-Star standards. Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12. In a hockey game. Really? Everyone knows that the All-Star game will be a no-hitter and that’s fine. Why should a multi-millionaire risk injury for what amounts to an exhibition game? But there’s a difference between not hitting and not breaking a sweat. Nothing says that defencemen can’t get in the way of attacking forwards, especially when they’re going half-speed anyway. In 2004, the year before another lockout, the final score of the All-Star game was 6-4. They don’t all have to be that way, but something in between that and a half-hearted game of shinny would reflect better on all involved. Maybe it’s not so easy getting players to give that something extra when there’s nothing extra in it for them. This is just a theory, but when a business creates a culture of management vs. workers every time the CBA comes up for negotiation – and wiped out the All-Star game during lockouts in 1995, 2004 and 2013 – maybe it should come as no surprise that the workers don’t necessarily feel like going the extra mile for management. If money is what drives the whole enterprise -- and, remember, its a business -- then maybe the incentive for winning the game needs to be substantial enough to get the players to notice. Or, we can just resign ourselves to this being what the game is and not worry about trying to make it any better. Columbus’ Ryan Johansen took home MVP honours, with two goals and two assists for the winners, though former Blue Jacket Jakub Voracek had six points (3 G, 3 A), while Jonathan Toews (1 G, 4 A) and Patrice Bergeron (1 G, 4 A) both had five, for the losing side. SKILLS COMPETITION While the All-Star game itself leaves lots to be desired, the weekend itself is a fun celebration. This year’s All-Star Draft was enjoyable enough. The players were, um, “hydrated” as several would say, but they had fun with the experience and that made it fun for fans. In Saturday’s skills competition, Shea Weber blasted a slapshot 108.5 miles-per-hour, Jonathan Drouin won fastest skater, and Team Foligno won the overall show. SPEZZA RETURNS TO OTTAWA Dallas Stars centre Jason Spezza played 686 games with the Ottawa Senators after he was the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft. He scored 687 points in that time, adding 52 points in 56 career playoff games, leading the postseason in scoring in 2007 when, during Ottawa’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, he scored 22 points in 20 playoff games. By last summer, at the very least, he also wanted out so, with one year left on his current contract, the Senators traded him to Dallas, with defenceman Ludwig Karlsson, for right winger Alex Chiasson, prospects Alexander Guptill and Nick Paul, as well as a second-round pick in 2015. Spezza has been okay for Dallas, though 35 points in 48 games is his lowest per-game scoring rate since 2003-2004, but good enough that the Stars saw fit to sign him to a four-year, $30-million contract extension. It is under those circumstances that Spezza returned to Ottawa Thursday night. The Senators showed a tribute video and Spezza received a standing ovation. He was also held without a point in a 6-3 Stars win. FALLING CANADIAN DOLLAR With oil prices crashing, the Canadian dollar has followed suit, falling below 80 cents U.S. and that brings with it – for those focused on the sports page – all sorts of concerns about the NHL salary cap going forward. Since Canadian teams provide a disproportionately large percentage of revenue for the league, a dramatic drop in value for the Canadian dollar makes it less likely that the NHL salary cap will rise. This year’s salary cap sits at $69-million and while initial projections had next year’s cap landing around $73-million, those expectations may have to be reined in. If the NHL players decide that they have had enough of dropping a large percentage of their salaries into escrow and don’t activate a five percent salary cap inflator, then next year’s salary cap may not go up too much and that could affect personnel decisions as soon as this year, but certainly in the offseason once those numbers are determined. STARTING THE SECOND HALF WITH INJURIES The second half of the NHL season starts with several significant players injured. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby missed his mandated first game after the All-Star break after opting out of the game due to injury, before returning, but teammate Evgeni Malkin remains sidelined. Islanders winger Kyle Okposo is down for 6-8 weeks. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, hurt the night before the break, is out 4-6 weeks. Defencemen Dion Phaneuf, Erik Johnson and Kevin Bieksa are all out and Oilers winger Taylor Hall was hurt the first day back at practice and hasn’t played since. Injuries are part of the game, but they also affect outcomes and teams missing these significant players will have to adjust their lineups accordingly. MCKENZIES DRAFT RANKINGS TSN’s Bob McKenzie is the dean of NHL draft experts, so his midseason rankings are must-see for hockey fans interested in the next generation of stars. It’s no surprise that Erie Otters centre Connor McDavid was the top prospect, ahead of Boston University centre Jack Eichel and Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin. EXPANSION FEES The NHL consistently downplays interest in expansion, though he’s been supportive enough of Bill Foley’s efforts to run a season-ticket drive in Las Vegas, so it comes as no surprise that the league isn’t thrilled to find out that owners are talking about potential expansion fees. TSN’s Rick Westhead reported, after discussing with a couple of NHL owners, that estimated expansion fees are going to run between $450-million and $500-million per team. None of that comes as a huge surprise, though it indicates a pretty nice influx of cash for NHL owners if two teams bring them almost a billion dollars. Even better, it’s not considered Hockey Related Revenue, in the CBA, so the money doesn’t have to be shared with the players. Having that information leak out was apparently not fun times for Gary Bettman, who is alleged to have read the report aloud to owners at the Board of Governors meeting. OVECHKIN ON TOP OF GOAL-SCORING RACE With 13 goals in the past 13 games, Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin has returned to the top of the NHL goal-scoring race. With 29 goals in 48 games, he’s one ahead of Dallas Tyler Seguin and the Rangers’ Rick Nash. So much for the theory that Ovechkin will be stifled under head coach Barry Trotz. He’s especially deadly on the power play, which is really something given that everyone must know, by now, that Ovechkin is setting up at the top of the left-wing circle for a one-timer. BLACKHAWKS-KINGS MATCH-UP The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have combined to win four of the past five Stanley Cups, and they met Wednesday night in L.A. for their second of three meetings this season. The Blackhawks aren’t leading their division (currently six points back of Nashville), but are comfortably in playoff position and have performed like a top team for most of the season. They tweak their battle-tested roster and appear to be top contenders again this year. On the other hand, the defending-champion Kings have struggled and while their underlying numbers are strong, they are currently fifth in the Pacific Division. When they met Wednesday, though, it was high-pace hockey; two teams that can play at a level few teams can match. Now, it’s up to the Kings to do it a little more often so that they don’t leave any doubt about where they will be when the playoffs start. Alfred Malone Jersey Store . The shortstop still grieves, but it will be nights like the one Segura had in a 5-2 victory Monday over the Cincinnati Reds that will provide some distraction. DeShawn Williams Jersey Store . - Playing a road game against a division rival raises the intensity for linebacker Clay Matthews. https://www.chinacheapjerseys.net/ . It was the most lopsided loss in Lakers history. Darren Collison had a team-high 24 points while starting at shooting guard for the injured Jamal Crawford. Chris Paul added 13 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who apparently are trying to make up for decades of humiliation at the hands of the Lakers all in one season; theyve won the last two meetings by a combined 84 points.Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Sidney Crosby scored his fifth goal of the season and Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar between the pipes as the Pittsburgh Penguins blanked the Nashville Predators, 3-0, on Saturday. Crosbys first-period tally was all Pittsburgh needed, as Fleury turned away all 25 shots he faced. Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis scored insurance goals for the Penguins, who ended a brief two-game slide. Pekka Rinne allowed all three goals on 26 shots as Nashville fell in regulation for the first time this season. Nashville controlled the early portion of the game, holding Pittsburgh without a shot for the first six minutes of the game. The tone changed when Crosby found a loose puck in front of Rinne at 6::21 and took two slaps at it, eventually forcing it into the back of the net. Jack May Jersey Store. After an uneventful second period, Pittsburgh tacked on two more goals early in the third. Malkin made an unbelievable individual effort after receiving a short pass from Fleury, weaving in between defenders before firing a no-look pass to Crosby at the blue line. Crosby slid a pass back to Malkin, who tapped in his third goal of the year. Three minutes later, Crosby found Steve Downie in front of the net. Rinne stoned him, but Dupuis converted the rebound. Game Notes Crosby had a goal and two assists. This is his third three-point game of the season ... Pittsburgh won 25-of-43 face offs. ' ' '