Scott Niedermayer, who played a critical role in bringing the Ducks' their first Stanley Cup, said Thursday he would return for one more season, ending weeks of speculation. He indicated, however, that it really could be his last.
After contemplating retirement at the end of each of the last two seasons, Niedermayer said in a conference call with reporters that nothing is ever certain.
"If I had to place a guess, I would say yes," the four-time All-Star defenseman said of retiring after the upcoming season. "But I've been wrong before in my thinking. That could change. If I had to make a decision on that, I'd say yes, this would probably be it."
General Manager Brian Burke said he had a hunch that Niedermayer would play but sounded relieved when he got a telephone call from the defenseman Thursday morning.
"There's no other way to look at this," Burke said. "We're a better hockey club this afternoon than we were this morning."
One of the best defensemen of his generation, Niedermayer, 34, signed with the team as a free agent in 2005 after winning three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. He helped lead the Ducks to the Cup in 2007.
Spent emotionally and physically after that Cup run, Niedermayer thought about retirement so hard that it took him until mid-December to decide to keep playing.
The team went 15-15-4 before Niedermayer's return and 32-12-4 after, finishing with a 47-27-8 record and 102 points, but its title defense ended in the first round of the playoffs against Dallas. In 48 games last season, Niedermayer had eight goals and 25 points while logging a plus-minus rating of minus-2.
"I had a lot of fun in my shortened year last year," Niedermayer said. "Obviously, I'm getting a little better at making these decisions quicker."
Teammates were as well.
"He's been a huge part of this team," Ducks captain Chris Pronger said. "It obviously makes us that much better."
Niedermayer waited until after the birth of his fourth child to reveal his intentions.
"I guess after a short year and a shorter playoff run, I definitely feel physically and mentally ready to go," he said. "A lot more energized."
Because Niedermayer will be paid $6.75 million next season in the final year of his contract, the Ducks will not be able to sign Corey Perry until after July 1.