Niedermayer's expected return raises cap questions for Ducks

While Ducks fans will be happy with the expected news of Scott Niedermayer's return, the next couple of days will be tough for GM Brian Burke.

Why? Well, he has to figure out a way to financially fit Niedermayer back into the roster. This season isn't the issue for the Ducks as the veteran defenseman will be paid roughly $4 million of his annual $6.75 million salary. The problem starts in 2008-09. Under the rules of the collective-bargaining agreement, teams must be under the cap ceiling not only for the current season, but subsequent seasons. Right now, the Ducks have 17 players on contract for the 2008-09 season. Those players are:

Chris Pronger
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Mathieu Schneider
Todd Bertuzzi
Andy McDonald
Todd Marchant
Rob Niedermayer
Francois Beauchemin
Samuel Pahlsson
Sean O'Donnell
Chris Kunitz
Travis Moen
Shane Hnidy
Ryan Getzlaf
Kent Huskins
Brad May
George Parros

Without Scott Niedermayer in the lineup, those 17 players account for roughly $46 million against the cap for next season. Add Niedermayer to the mix, and the Ducks are at approximately $52 million. While the cap may go up during the offseason, it doesn't solve the problem now -- Anaheim will be over the current $50.3-million ceiling.

Now, Burke and the Ducks are vulnerable. With forward Corey Perry set to become a restricted free agent after this season, the Ducks will be limited if Niedermayer decides to return in 2008-09. With Ryan Getzlaf signed to a new five-year, $26.6-million extension that will pay him $4.5 million in 2008-09, that could handcuff the Ducks with Perry. Burke will have to make a move to clear some cap space among the 17 players that are under contract for the 2008-09 season. The question is, will he clear just enough to secure Niedermayer's return or will he look to make a bigger deal to open more cap space to allow extra room to quickly re-sign Perry.

The other question some may have is, where does Teemu Selanne fit in to all of this? Well, the Finnish Flash's situation is much different, and simpler, than Niedermayer's. If Selanne chooses to return to the Ducks, which is more likely now that Niedermayer is back in the works, the Ducks can sign him to a one-year deal since he became a free agent at the end of last season. And, as a player over the age of 35 (he's 37), Selanne is eligible for a bonus-structure contract, which would make it easier to fit him under the cap this season.

E.J. Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at ej.hradek@espnmag.com. Also, click here to send E.J. a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.