No question about it, this was a big day for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Scott Niedermayer and restricted free agent center/right wing Rob Niedermayer have both signed four-year contracts with the Anaheim club.
“ The key to this whole thing was locking up Rob Niedermayer,” says Brian Burke, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Mighty Ducks. “Irrespective of anything Scott decided to do, we felt Rob Niedermayer was a critical part of our success going forward. So, the focus was always on signing him to an extension first and foremost. That was our top priority.”
“Rob has size and grit and skill,” said Burke. “He’s a power forward and I think he’ll strive in our new system. Because he’s a big guy and he can skate. I talked to Rob virtually every day last week leading up to the draft. Finally, on Friday, he said he wanted to stay. Rob said he was willing to talk about a multi-year deal. We set up a meeting with his agent to make sure we got rob locked up.”
So, then the attention turned to Rob’s brother, Scott.
Burke says he wanted to find out what the most important things were to Scott. So the third overall pick in the 1991 Entry Draft put together a list. The 31-year old former Devil defenseman pointed out that his family came first and he would also enjoy playing with his brother among other items listed.
“I told Scott that I’m the only General Manager in the National Hockey League who could check off everything on that list,” added Burke. “So, we started talking. I flew to Vancouver on Wednesday morning and met the bulk of the day arm-wrestling with his agent.”
Burke said he wanted to salute Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey Devils General Manager.
“I think Scott Niedermayer is the player he is because of Lou’s influence and the way New Jersey does things,” mentioned Burke. “My admiration and respect is complete and total.
Scott Niedermayer is one of the premier players in the NHL. The highest praise a defenseman can get is to win a Norris Trophy. It says everything.
“He moves the puck well,” added Burke. “He can lug it when he needs to. He’s a proven winner. He can quarterback a power play and has character. This was a no-brainer, to go after Scott Niedermayer. Very pleased to add him to the group.”
“This is a big step for the Mighty Ducks today,” said Burke. “Since June 20th when our new owners were announced, we have signed Randy Carlyle as Head Coach, re-signed Sandis Ozolinsh, traded for Todd Fedoruk and now have locked up two key players.
We are following our blueprint of stressing skating ability, size and character. And this is a big piece of the puzzle.”
Thirty-year old Rob Niedermayer completed his 11th NHL season in 2003-2004, earning 12-16=28 points with 34 penalty minutes in 55 games for the Ducks. Following the season, he was selected to appear with Team Canada at the 2004 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.
“I’m very excited with the signing of Scott in Anaheim,” says the youngest brother. “We talked about playing together and it’s a great situation. I think it shows with new owners that they are very committed to winning. It’s a very exciting time for both of us.”
Scott says he is also excited about having the opportunity to play with his brother, Rob.
“It’s been an interesting process for me to go through the last two and half days,” says Niedermayer. “I’ve been in New Jersey a long time and have had a lot of memories there.
To make a new decision like this was a difficult thing to do. I know it was the right choice. I’m excited to play with Rob and have a new experience and challenges with Anaheim. I look forward to all those things and everything that goes along. Meeting all the new guys on the team and trying to be the best team we can be. And helping the team as much as I can.”
A three-time Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist, Scott Niedermayer was awarded the 2004 James Norris Trophy (given to the league’s top defenseman). During the 2003-2004 regular season, he appeared in 81 games, finishing tied-for-second in the NHL among defenseman with 54 points. He was also named a First Team NHL All-Star.
Scott is certainly aware of what it takes to win a Stanley Cup in Anaheim.
“I think Anaheim fans probably saw what it takes to win a championship a couple of seasons ago,” added Niedermayer. “Anaheim was right there, one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. You don’t get that far without having that special ingredient that goes into making championship teams. They did a lot of great things that year. That’s the goal of every team heading into the new season. We are going to be no different.”
“Everybody is excited about their chances,” added Scott. “It is going to be interesting to see how it shakes out. Our goal is always to be there at the end of the year. That’s what we are going to try to do. That’s the goal that motivates everybody to play.”
Scott says there were a few things that attracted him to the Mighty Ducks.
“Obviously, the one with Rob,” exclaimed Scott Niedermayer. “That explains itself. Since I was sixteen and he was fifteen years old, we have been apart playing hockey. Now we are going to get an opportunity to be on the same team again, like we were in minor hockey. Also, be together. My parents will come down and we’ll be able to spend holidays together as a family. My wife’s parents actually spend the winter in Palm Springs, California. We have three boys, so the grandparents always love coming down for a visit. So, that was big thing.”
“Another reason was the fact that Brian Burke is in Anaheim,” added Niedermayer. “His track record of running a great organization, that was big part of it. Probably the last thing was to have a new change, new challenges and to experience different things was a great thing to do in life. Do different things and try different things. Now we are going to make the best of this situation in Anaheim and have a lot of fun and success there.”
After Rob and Scott played together at the World Championships, the two had thoughts about someday working together on the same team.
“What we experienced there was a lot of fun,” said Rob Niedermayer. “Both of us thought it would be nice to experience it for a whole season. I didn’t know it was going to come up. But when Scott decided to come, I was probably the happiest guy around. I’m really looking forward to it.”
You can be assured Rob; there are a lot of Mighty Ducks fans feeling the same way.