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Selanne signs with Ducks

January 29, 2008|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Teemu Selanne couldn't stay out of the spotlight after all.

Selanne put off his retirement for a few months at least as he signed a contract Monday to play the remainder of the season with the Ducks in the hope that he can help the team repeat as Stanley Cup champion.

"It's almost like I didn't miss a day when I stepped on the ice," Selanne joked at a news conference in the Honda Center after his first practice with the team.

The 37-year-old Finnish star signed a one-year, bonus-heavy deal that should pay him more than $1.7 million. Selanne will receive a pro-rated salary of $570,000 and a $1.2-million bonus will kick in if he plays at least 10 regular-season games or if the Ducks advance to the playoffs, both of which appear readily attainable.

The Ducks, who are 27-20-6, currently sit fourth in the Western Conference with 60 points. They are one point behind Pacific Division co-leaders San Jose and Dallas.

Now they add a future Hall of Fame winger who has scored 88 goals in the last two seasons. This after welcoming back superstar defenseman Scott Niedermayer in mid-December, following his own dance with retirement.

Selanne is the only player to have recorded consecutive 40-goal seasons after age 35.

"We are thrilled to have him back," General Manager Brian Burke said. "This is a player who scored 48 goals last year and showed no signs of slowing down."

Following the lead of Niedermayer, who sat out the first 34 games of the season to contemplate his future, Selanne said he was going to wait until after the December birth of his daughter, Veera, before making a decision.

"After that, I thought I would start skating and see how I feel," he said. "Every day, I started feeling better and better. I called my agent and asked him to see if there was a deal available. It went very smoothly. I'm very happy about that."

Selanne said he was excited when Niedermayer announced he would return.

"If he didn't come back, I don't know what would have happened," Selanne said. "I really tried to be honest. If I didn't feel like I wanted to play anymore, I wouldn't be here."

Like Niedermayer, Selanne acknowledged that if Burke had set a deadline for him to make a decision by either training camp or November, he would probably have hung up his skates.

"They were willing to wait for me and make this possible," Selanne said.

The Ducks can fit Selanne into their budget because only $570,000 of his salary goes against the cap. The team still has approximately $1.7 million to spend and could make room for a $5-million-to-$6-million player such as Toronto center Mats Sundin or Atlanta winger Marian Hossa if they are dealt by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, since they would be responsible only for the balance of their 2007-08 salary.

Arguably the most popular player in the franchise's 15-year history, Selanne attracted lots of attention. Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle noted how many extra people were watching practice.

"Everybody was smiling when he stepped on the ice," Carlyle said. "It's a huge positive for the organization. We know this player. He's comfortable with this situation. We're comfortable with him. He's a guy that's made a huge contribution both on and off the ice.

"The way the whole thing was put together and the way it fell into place, it was a marriage that both sides are happy with."

Selanne will join the Ducks on their eight-game trip that begins Wednesday in Minnesota, but there is no timeline on when he'll play.

Carlyle said it will be up to the forward to determine when he is ready for competition.

"It's foolish of us to make any assumption on when or where he will come back into our lineup," the coach said.

The Ducks are hoping that Selanne can lift the spirits of a team that went into the All-Star break with three consecutive losses.

"It'll be nice," winger Chris Kunitz said. "We usually have a fairly quiet locker room. With him back, it'll be vocal."


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