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Niedermayer Returning to Ducks

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks announced today that defenseman Scott Niedermayer will return to the team for the remainder of the season.

“We are obviously very pleased that Scotty has chosen to come back and play,” said Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke. “He earned the right to take time in making a decision, one that was clearly difficult for him.” 

Brian Burke Press Conference Video

Niedermayer, 34 (8/31/73), helped lead the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship last season, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2007 playoffs. With 15-54=69 points in 79 regular season games last year, Niedermayer became the first Duck to lead NHL defensemen in scoring, a career first. A finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy (top NHL defenseman) and 2007 Western Conference All-Star, he set career highs in goals, assists and points, breaking his own club single-season records in assists and points from the previous campaign.

“I’m excited to be rejoining my teammates and getting back on the ice,” said Niedermayer. “I would like to thank the Samuelis, Brian Burke and especially my teammates for their patience while I wrestled with this very difficult decision.”

Signed as a free agent on Aug. 4, 2005, Niedermayer has won four Stanley Cup championships since making his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils during the 1991-92 season. He is the only player in hockey history to have won a Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship, World Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior title.  Niedermayer has been named a Norris Trophy finalist each of the last three seasons, winning the award in 2004. He has been named to four NHL All-Star teams during his career and has produced 10 overtime goals, the most all-time by an NHL defenseman.

Originally selected by New Jersey in the first round (third overall) of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, Niedermayer has split his 15-season NHL career between the Devils (1991-2004) and Ducks (2005-07). In 1,053 career games, Niedermayer has recorded 140-468=608 points with a +186 rating and 660 penalty minutes (PIM). His Anaheim totals include 28-104=132 points with a +14 rating and 86 PIM in 161 regular season games.

Burke made the first announcement during a press conference tonight at Honda Center, about 30 minutes before the Ducks were to take on the Buffalo Sabres.

Burke also announced that Niedermayer will skate tomorrow at Anaheim Ice at 11:30 a.m. and could play for the Ducks within "7-10 days."

Brian Burke Press Conference Transcript

I’d like to thank you folks for joining us on short notice. I always say that but it’s true. We’re grateful that when we have news that happens on a short timeframe, the turnout is appreciated, so thank you. I’d like to acknowledge our owner, Henry Samueli, is in the back. I always like it when Henry’s around.

We’re here to make what I would consider a major announcement and that is that Scott Niedermayer has elected to return and play for the Anaheim Ducks. We view it as a very important day for us. I want to go back in the timeframe here, but obviously this is an important announcement for us in terms of our player personnel. 

We respect the battle that Scotty has fought over this decision, as far as whether to retire, about whether to come back and play. We respected that decision right from the get-go. Our position has been that he earned that right. You’re talking about a player that’s going to walk into the Hall of Fame some day and his shoulders aren’t going to touch either side of the door frame. He’s going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer and a player that has accomplished what he has accomplished and contributed to our game what he has contributed has earned that right to wrestle with a decision like this.

If you look at it, I want to point out one thing. Scotty’s 34 years old. You’ve got to look at his postseason competition and international competition. He’s really 37 from a hockey standpoint. He’s played 183 NHL playoff games and he’s played 43 international games. So, it’s almost like dog years. If you add that additional service on, this is a guy that’s 37 and has really excelled at a high level for a long time and in my mind that player has earned the right to take that time. 

On July 1, Scott called me and said, I was driving back to Canada and Scott called me and said he was leaning strongly towards retirement. My first call was to my boss, who immediately called Henry and we all had the rationale ‘Just take your time here. You don’t have to decide to retire today. Take your time.' That’s been our message to Scott from the get-go. ‘Take your time. Don’t decide in a hasty manner and then miss the game and decide you want to come back and now you’ve signed those retirement papers and you can’t come back, so take your time and we’ll be patient.’ But we felt at the time it was the act of a captain also, to give me the heads up, to allow me take steps on July 1 to replace the player, which we did signing Mathieu Schneider to a free agent contract.

In those five months since then, we’ve encouraged Scotty to take his time and make the right decision, whether that was to retire and spend more time with his family or come back and play for us. We’re obviously thrilled that from our perspective that he’s elected to come back and play. It’s an important day for us. 

Now, much has been made of the fact that we’ve got some salary cap and tagging room issues. In other words, for Scotty to come back it’s not that simple. We have to look at a roster change. I think people’s natural inclination is to say that that puts us in a tough spot and puts Scott in a tough spot, when in fact I will tell you we set the 20-game mark this year as our barometer. We knew we’d have a hangover after the Stanley Cup, everybody does. We gave the team 20 games to turn it around in our own minds and that’s when we began making roster changes. We let Ilya Bryzgalov go on waivers. We sent Max Kondratiev back to Russia around the same time. With the cap money that was freed up, we made the Sutherby trade. We made a move with Mark Mowers.

We’ve been making active changes to our roster since the 20-game mark and we have offered a number of players for trade during that time, guys on our roster now. And I met with the players today and told them. I said ‘If anyone wants to blame this on Scott’s return, feel free. But the fact of the matter is that we’ve looked at making changes based on the performance of the team since the 20-game mark, the second LA game in that home-and-home. At that point we were eighth in the Western Conference, but all the teams behind us had at least three games in hand, so we viewed it as a non-playoff team at the 20-game mark and that’s not acceptable to us. So, for us it’s a big day.

The time table will be as follows. Scotty is going to skate tomorrow at Anaheim Ice. He will be available to you folks after he’s done. He’s skating at 11:30, so 1:00 say. I’ll be there also if you have any questions. And then he will work out with our strength coach, Sean Skahan, until the team returns from this road trip and then he’ll begin practicing with the team. The player owes us in this case 21 days of training camp, no different than the players that are dressing and going on the ice shortly. It is our discretion what number of days of that 21 that the player has to fulfill. So, there is no roster change today. If Scotty comes back tomorrow, he does not change the status. He is still a suspended player. He is not a roster player until we say he is. We’ll see how his fitness levels are and then we’ll make a decision. My guess is dealing with his conditioning fanaticism that we’re looking at 7-10 days and then you could see him in a game next week.

There will be no change to the captaincy. That was made clear at the start of the year when Chris Pronger was given the ‘C’. I don’t want anyone to raise that as an issue and put that to rest right now. When we put the ‘C’ on Chris it was expressly stated to him that should Scott change his mind and return there would not be a change with the captaincy. So, that’s my news today. 

On if previous conversations with Scotty’s hinted at him coming back:
Before the last two days, no. I had one conversation with Scotty. He had done an interview with a media source in Canada indicating he started skating and was thinking about a comeback. As the beat guys here know, I felt that given the patience that you guys have shown with him, that that type of story shouldn’t break in Canada and so I met with Scotty and told him that. I said ‘You’re the one that’s calling the tune here. We’re all dancing along but I don’t think it’s appropriate for news about your plans to break outside of Orange County and he agreed with that. But that was the extent of it. There was no talk at that point that he’d set a date. He just told me that his plan was to take his family away over the Thanksgiving holiday and then he’d give me some kind of deadline after that or some kind of decision after that. I’m going to play, I’m not going to play, but he didn’t put hard date on it. So, we basically left him alone. We followed the same game plan that we set from the get-go. We felt he had a hard decision to make and that we weren’t going to make that more difficult.  

On when Scotty let him know about his decision:

He called me on Sunday and I called him back during that game. He said he wanted to come back and play. I said ‘Fine. We’ll sit down tomorrow.” I immediately fired off an e-mail to Henry and let him know. So, now we’ll go from there. We’ll see when he’s ready to play and we’ll see what roster changes we’re going to make, if any.

On if the team has to make roster changes to accommodate Scotty:
Yes. We don’t have a cap issue. The reason I’m not going to go into more detail is quite frankly because I don’t understand it all either. There’s only one guy in this room that understands all these issues and he’s in the back, (Assistant General Manager) David McNab. It’s called a tagging room issue. We not only have to have enough salary cap room to bring a player in, he’s also got to fit within the tagging room specifications for future years and we have a tagging room issue. So, there will be a change before he comes back in, but again that was well underway before his phone call. I have to move contractual obligations for next year. 

On if he can say how much in contract obligations he has to cut:
No. I’ll get to that figure. We’ve gotten a conflicting figure today in our own internal discussion and what’s been suggested by someone at the NHL. So, I don’t know. We’ll get to that answer probably during the game. I don’t think that’s something that you should have to guess. We’ll get you that answer. There was a discrepancy in two figures today. 

On if Scotty has discussed next season:
He’s made it clear that his commitment to come back now is for this season only. And I’ve made it clear that we’re not going through this same dance again. If he feels he’s going to retire at the end of this season, I’m going to produce those voluntarily retired papers within about two minutes. I respect what Scotty’s has gone through. I think you all know that. This is a warrior and he’s a great hockey player and he’s earned that right. I don’t know if he’s earned it twice. It did force us to stay on the sidelines and keep some money inactive and refrain from making some moves. I think we owed him that once. I’m not sure we owe him that twice.

On if there would be any changes in the alternate captains:
That’s a fair question, but it’s entirely up to the coaching staff. If you would have asked me before the season began, who was going to wear the A’s, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you and I don’t know if there will be a change. That’s up to Randy. 

On any new developments with Teemu Selanne:
Other than having a baby girl today, no. Sirpa and Teemu had a baby girl today. Everyone is fine. It’s great news. He had three wild boys. Now he gets the girl. So, we’re all excited for him. But, no change on his status with us. Hopefully that baby we’ll cry a lot.   

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