LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks signed defenceman Mathieu Schneider to a two-year, US$11.25-million deal Sunday as insurance against the loss of captain Scott Niedermayer, who has told the team he is leaning toward retirement.
"I think strongly is a fair word, for sure," Niedermayer said about his inclination to retire.
The four-time Stanley Cup winner declined to provide a timetable for announcing his decision.
"Bryan has asked me to take time and think it through and really make the proper decision," Niedermayer said by phone from his off-season home in Cranbrook, B.C. "This isn't something that just sort of popped into my head the day after we won."
Niedermayer has two years remaining on a four-year contract.
"You make a commitment and that's important," he said. "That adds to the difficulty of the situation."
Ducks general manager Bryan Burke said the team didn't intend to do much on the first day of NHL free agency until Niedermayer called.
"He called me and said he was leaning toward retirement," Burke said in a conference call. "We immediately jumped into the game and were able to sign Mathieu Schneider.
"It's the mark of a captain to make that call, and it changes the question dramatically. I don't think he's made up his mind. I think that knowing this was the way he's leaning gave us the impetus to make a move."
Schneider, a 38-year-old unrestricted free agent who previously played for the Los Angeles Kings, had 11 goals and 41 assists in 68 games with Detroit last season, his fourth with the Red Wings. He will make $5.5 million next season and $5.75 million in 2008-09.
He scored 50 or more points in four of his past six seasons.
"If Scotty's there, we're a better team," Schneider said from his off-season base in Los Angeles. "If he's not there, it's going to be a bigger role for me to fill. I hope he doesn't retire."
Schneider broke his wrist in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals May 5 and was knocked out of the playoffs. He said an X-ray taken Friday showed the bone is fully healed.
"I can start strengthening," he said. "I have 85 per cent of my mobility back."
Niedermayer won three Stanley Cup titles with the New Jersey Devils and added a fourth last month with the Ducks. At 33, he earned his first Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the NHL playoffs when the Ducks beat Ottawa for the title.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer were the first brothers to win the Cup together since Brent and Duane Sutter won with the New York Islanders in 1983.
Niedermayer's comments suggested that he's struggling in deciding whether to call it a career.
"It goes sort of in waves and ups and downs. It's a big decision," he said. "I'm trying to give it the due respect and consideration that every part of it deserves."