SUN Hockey Pool

Niedermayer, Oilers shared mutual interest

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- Doubters laughed out loud when Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement would allow his team to compete for marquee free agents.

In the days before Lowe inked Chris Pronger and Michael Peca, a lot of people were skeptical that Lowe had the financial means to make a splash in the free agent market.

PRONGER AND PECA

Count Scott Niedermayer -- an Edmonton boy and the biggest fish in the free-agent pool before the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim signed him -- among the few who wasn't surprised when Lowe paid $10 million to get Pronger and Peca under contract.

That's because before Lowe went courting them, he came calling on the former Devils' defenceman with chequebook in hand and sales pitch at the ready.

In the end, Niedermayer opted for the West Coast and a chance to wear Anaheim silks with brother Rob over playing in his hometown, but says Lowe and the Oilers were definitely in the mix.

"I was a little surprised when I talked with them," Niedermayer said of interest by the Oilers.

"I didn't expect that, I guess.

"It was an interesting experience, but I don't know if I'd want to do it again.

"It wasn't as easy or as fun as I initially thought. Dealing with (general managers) trying to put their teams together and trying to make the best decision for myself and my family, there was just a lot going on."

Niedermayer, 32, who hoisted the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils and was voted the Norris Trophy in 2003-04, had his pick of teams as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

"It was a tough decision to leave New Jersey to begin with," Niedermayer said.

"It wasn't something where, after I'd played my last game and the lockout happened, I knew I wasn't going back.

"That was not the case.

"A big part of it was just to have a change. I'd been in New Jersey a long time and done a lot of good things.

"I thought to step into a new environment, to try to do the same thing somewhere else with a different group of guys would be a good challenge for me.

"We talked to all three western Canadian teams," said Niedermayer.

'A BETTER COACH'

There's another person who was glad to see the flashy defenceman ink with the Ducks: rookie bench boss Randy Carlye.

"I became a better coach when they signed him, I know that for sure," laughed Carlyle.


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