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Niedermayer's decision near


Scott Niedermayer is ready to announce whether he'll play one more season, and this time the Anaheim Ducks hope the star defenseman sticks with his decision one way or the other.

Niedermayer's agent, Kevin Epp, on Wednesday, said his client plans to inform the Ducks whether he'll come back prior to the NHL Draft in Ottawa on Friday. That way, Epp said, the team can better plan its offseason strategy, especially when the free-agency period opens July 1.

Epp said he doesn't know which way Niedermayer is leaning, but added the 2004 Norris Trophy winner has had several discussions with general manager Brian Burke since the Ducks were eliminated by Dallas in the first round of the playoffs in April.

The Ducks hope Niedermayer elects to return to play the final season of his contract. What they don't want is a repeat of last year, when Niedermayer informed the team in July that he wasn't returning and then changed his mind two months into the season.

Niedermayer's return in December forced the Ducks to trade offensive forward Andy McDonald to St. Louis to free up room under the salary cap. And much of that cap space was taken up in July when Anaheim signed defenseman Mathieu Schneider to a two-year, $11.25 million contract believing that Niedermayer wasn't going to be back.

"Everything we do hinges around Scott Niedermayer," said Bob Murray, Ducks vice president of hockey operations. "He has to make his decision because we have to move on. We can't do what we did last year because it didn't work. It was a long year and it was no fun for anybody."

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Murray added he didn't have even a gut feeling on what Niedermayer might decide, except to say the player is "torn" over what to do.

"We need him back, but you have to respect that, if he doesn't feel he wants to play again," Murray said, "he'll do what he has to do."

Niedermayer is a 16-year NHL veteran, who won his fourth Stanley Cup title with the Ducks -- playing alongside his brother Rob -- in 2007, and named the playoff MVP. Last season, he finished third among Ducks defensemen with 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 48 games.

Epp said Niedermayer has had more time to consider his decision this spring, unlike last year when he had a mere three weeks to make up his mind after the Ducks won the Cup in early June.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-06-18-08 1526EDT