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Ducks move on as star reflects

Team will suspend Scott Niedermayer if he isn't at camp, but it would be for salary-cap reasons.

September 07, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The Ducks will keep the door open for Scott Niedermayer but made clear Thursday they are ready to defend the Stanley Cup without him, which comes as no surprise as the team captain struggles to find the desire to keep playing.

"When camp opens next week, if Scotty is not there, I can't worry about it," Ducks General Manager Brian Burke said. "Our team has to be prepared with the people that show up and lace up their skates."

The former Norris Trophy winner had a career-high 69 points last season and is considered to be in his prime, at age 34.

But Niedermayer, in a news conference at Anaheim Ice on Thursday, reiterated what he told The Times on Wednesday: He will not be at training camp when it opens next week and will be at his Newport Beach home when the Ducks go to London to play the Kings to open the regular season Sept. 29.

In response, the Ducks will suspend him for failing to show, but that is largely a formality. Niedermayer won't be paid and his $6.75-million salary will come off the books as long as he is at home.

The silver lining is the Ducks could get some much-needed cap relief. About $49 million is already committed to 21 players, including Niedermayer, and while the league salary cap is at $50.3 million, Burke said ownership has thus far approved only a $45-million payroll.

"We don't have a choice if we want that money to come off the salary cap," Burke said of the suspension. "If Scotty comes back, then obviously I've got to sit down with my boss."

It is clear the Ducks want Niedermayer back and have remained patient while he considers retirement, something that began as soon as the team won the Stanley Cup in June.

Burke pointedly said he isn't bothered by the indecision.

"This notion or this feeling I get that somehow Scotty's difficulty with this decision is inconveniencing us or this notion that Scott is not handling it right or holding this organization hostage is garbage," he said. "We've encouraged him to take his time.

"The one phone call we don't want to get, we haven't got."

At Thursday's news conference, Niedermayer said one problem is that he is tired of the travel involved.

Asked whether he has lost the desire to play, he said, "I definitely felt like that after the season, no question. It's a big commitment to go through a full regular season and to go long into the playoffs. . . . Now, I don't feel I have the energy [or] and am willing to make that big a commitment to start camp. I guess that's sort of why I'm still undecided.

"The last thing I want is to be a distraction or whatever to the work of the team that's going to be hitting the ice," Niedermayer said. "I wish I had a decision right now. My preference would be to know right now and to start and be ready to go with the rest of the guys. That would be my preference. It's not looking like that might happen.

"So you go to Plan B, and the second-best option would be to come up with a decision as quick as possible."

Burke quashed speculation about a plan for Niedermayer to join the team during the season. But the Ducks executive said his star deserves as much time as he needs.

"This is a special player," Burke said. "You could be a GM in this league 30 years and not have this kind of player. He's been here two years, and we've played seven playoff rounds.

"Would we find a way to get Scotty back in? Yes. The guy is worth a lot of trouble."

Burke said there is nothing new regarding forward Teemu Selanne but that "he's free to do whatever he wants to do. We've made it clear we want him back."

Burke also said center Samuel Pahlsson underwent hernia surgery Wednesday and will need three to five weeks to recover, making it doubtful he will be ready for the opener.

--

eric.stephens@latimes.com

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