The decision whether or not to retire is proving to be more difficult. “It’s sort of unfortunate that this decision has taken this long for me to make,” the 34-year-old star defenceman said Thursday at a news conference. “It’s definitely become harder than I had envisioned.
“The last thing I want is for it to be a distraction to the work and the team that’s going to be hitting the ice. Brian (Ducks GM Brian Burke) has been very good at allowing me this time. I’ve made it clear to him where I’m at and the fact I don’t have an answer whether I’ll be playing this year or not.”
The Ducks’ captain did not rule out the possibility of joining the team during the season, and said he was out of shape now and would need about four weeks to get in condition.
“My preference would be to know right now and to start and be ready to go with the rest of the guys. It’s not looking like that might happen, so we go to Plan B and the second best option, which is to come to a decision as quickly as possible,” Niedermayer said. “I don’t want to drag this out any longer than I have to. The team has enough to worry about.”
Asked which way he was leaning, he said with a smile: “I think it’s 50-50 until I make it 100-0.”
Niedermayer got to hoist the Stanley Cup for the fourth time earlier this year, and won his first Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. The NHL title was the first for the Ducks, but Niedermayer had played on three Cup champions with New Jersey before coming to Anaheim in 2005.
One of the big reasons he chose the Ducks was so he could play with his brother, Rob. Scott said he believes his younger brother wants him to keep playing but, like most of Scott’s friends, family and other players have told him, the decision is up to him.
“There is no question I’m going to miss a lot of things about the game if I retire. That’s why the decision is as difficult as it is,” Niedermayer said. “There are things on both sides of the question that are appealing to me; obviously playing with the group of guys that I played here with the last two years.
“It’s a great group of guys, coming off the year we had. It’s a huge challenge to come back and defend that (Stanley Cup title).”
Niedermayer has two years and US$13.5 million left on his contract. The Ducks stand at around $49 million under the $50.3-million salary cap – counting Niedermayer’s salary. Since he will not report for the start of camp Tuesday, the Ducks will suspend him in order to retain the savings under the salary cap.
But Niedermayer isn’t worried that means the team doesn’t want him anymore.
“If I wanted to come back, I don’t think they would lock the door on me,” he said.
Niedermayer, who signed as a free agent with Anaheim in 2005, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman during the 2003-04 season with New Jersey.