Surely he informed Brian Burke of his intentions long ago, which could very well revolve around him saving his body -- not to mention team salary-cap money -- by returning to the game late in the season.
Otherwise, what he's doing withholding his services and delaying an announcement on his playing future is disruptive and distracting a franchise that deserves better.
I can't say that I blame the players but if that is the plan I wish Scott Niedermayer was upfront about it. There is something distasteful about it, but I'm not sure exactly what. As Matt Fenwick notes, fans aren't particularly happy about it.
Except the CBA doesn't allow that arrangement. Or, by extension, Niedermayer to give the Ducks any indication of his intentions.
Why, that would be cap circumvention!
26.3 Circumventions.There's nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that explicitly refers to potential retirements or quasi-retirements, but Brian Burke has referenced the fact they cannot agree upon a midseason date for a return due to circumvention concerns, and I'm betting this is something he's checked with the league.
(a) No Club or Club Actor, directly or indirectly, may: (i) enter into any agreements, promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind, whether express, implied, oral or written, including without limitation, any SPC, Qualifying Offer, Offer Sheet or other transaction, or (ii) take or fail to take any action whatsoever, if either (i) or (ii) is intended to or has the effect of defeating or Circumventing the provisions of this Agreement or the intention of the parties as reflected by the provisions of this Agreement, including without limitation, provisions with respect to the financial and other reporting obligations of the Clubs and the League, Team Payroll Range, Player Compensation Cost Redistribution System, the Entry Level System and/or Free Agency.
As for Niedermayer, well, I think it is a problem that he signed a long-term deal and is now, unexpectedly, deciding to sit for what will likely be a half season to recharge the batteries.
He's certainly earned an awful lot over his NHL career, and I can understand that he may want a break, but coming off a season away already in 2004-05 and keeping in mind that he's only 34, I don't think it's unreasonable that he honour the contract he signed with the Ducks.
It's just one more CBA snag that puts the player, his team and the league in a tough spot, and something the NHL and Players' Association should really rework to allow for player burnout.
UPDATE Tyler Dellow disagrees with me:
By any sane definition the Niedermayer situation cannot be cap circumvention. In order for it to be cap circumvention, I would think that the team and the player would agree that the player would be receiving compensation in excess of that provided for in the contract. I can't see how Niedermayer sitting out games and not getting paid fits that definition. If your focus is on the fact that they're going to get Scott Niedermayer and only have to pay him for 40 games and then they get him for the playoffs, I think that you're missing the point - they'll have to play a bunch of regular season games without him. Burke is doing the right thing from a risk management standpoint, in saying nothing that might make someone raise that argument but I have no idea how it would meet that definition.Not that there aren't more than a few insane things in the CBA.
The only way I can see it possibly being circumvention is that the Ducks are getting cap relief by suspending Niedermayer, using the suspension to void a portion of a contract. One would assume a team suspension functions as more than a convenient method to receive relief.
I'm going to have to do a bit more digging before we have an answer on this one.