Thursday, December 06, 2007

Niedermayer Sabbatical Ending

Before the season began, I wrote about Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Peter Forsberg all taking sabbaticals from the NHL. The NHL season is a long draining one and players (especially those who have playoff success) have little time to recover in the shortened off-season. Niedermayer and Selanne had both been members of the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and Peter Forsberg was recovering from an injury plagued season. Selanne and Forsberg were unrestricted free agents and merely have held off signing new deals to achieve their sabbaticals from the game. Scott Niedermayer is under contract to the Ducks for two more years. In order to get his break he had to "contemplate retirement" and get suspended by the Ducks for not reporting to the team. It is now being reported that Niedermayer will return to the Ducks. Peter Forsberg has suffered further foot problems, thus slowing his recovery and Teemu Selanne's future remains unclear at this point.

It seems clear that after Scott Niedermayer completed a tough 2006/07 season where he played extremely well winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and getting nominated for the Norris. Merely looking at Niedermayer near the end of the playoffs was enough to make it obvious that the season had taken a lot out of him. He didn't look like he had anything else left to offer. Niedermayer needed a break. I think he went to Brian Burke and said that he would not be ready to go in September. Niedermayer left Burke with two options. Either Scott Niedermayer would retire or he would take a longer off-season and join the Anaheim Ducks later on in the season. Some Niedermayer is better than none, so Burke agreed. The only way to do this under the CBA was for Niedermayer to "contemplate retirement" until he was ready to rejoin the Ducks.

Meanwhile, Brian Burke prepared for life after Scott Niedermayer. He signed Mathieu Schneider as a replacement. When Niedermayer (and possibly Selanne) returned, Burke figured he would have time to make a trade or two to reduce payroll. These trades never happened. In fact, desperation forced the Ducks to place Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers. It turns out that isn't quite good enough for the Anaheim Ducks to add Niedermayer to their roster. Even though his remaining pay this season will keep the team below the salary cap, the CBA has further complicated restrictions. Any player added to a roster after December 1st who is on a contract longer than one season must have his remaining years on the contract fit under the salary cap in future seasons (with the incorrect assumption of zero cap growth from one season to the next). Next season, the Ducks payroll is set to grow. Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz have new contracts with pay increases that are larger than the losses of payroll of any UFAs (Shane Hnidy being the most prominent Duck who will become a UFA). This would put the Ducks over the salary cap next year, assuming the salary cap does not increase for next year (almost certainly wrong), they do not make any roster moves to reduce payroll by next year (also almost certainly wrong) and Scott Niedermayer returns to the team next year for the final year of his contract (possibly also wrong). Making sure the Ducks do not exceed the salary cap next year with an incorrect salary cap and an unclear actual roster seems like a ridiculous theoretical exercise, but the overly restrictive CBA actually demands it. Thus before welcoming Niedermayer back into the fold, the Ducks must make a move to reduce payroll next season. Most likely that means either Mathieu Schneider or Todd Marchant will be moved.

I am happy to see the best possible players in the NHL at all times. Thus it will be good to see Scott Niedermayer playing again. It would be nice for the NHL to work out a schedule which was more player friendly to prevent such things happening in the future and a CBA that doesn't put obscure restrictions on such moves.

Here is TSN's story on Niedermayer's return.

Thanks for an informative and interesting post.
Good analysis on the Ducks' CBA situation. I agree that the next year portion of the CBA seems silly, as team rosters and thus payrolls change dramatically in the off-season.
1) Amazing how this issue is so fluid. So much for transparency for the fans. Its the 3rd season into this CBA and still 99% of folks(media included) don't know how this dam thing works.
2) The NHL should mandate that each teams' current and future salary cap numbers be published and updated each day to reflect trades,contract extensions demotions/call-ups/retirements, etc.
3) An educated fan base increases interest/understanding of the game.
Gotta love that "tagging" rule...well no one really loves it..particularly the fan.
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