Future Hall of Fame goaltender Mike Vernon had just backstopped the Detroit Red Wings to the 1997 Stanley Cup championship, their first title after 42 years of absolute frustration in the Motor City. Oh, and he also just happened to be named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, Red Wings management felt that Chris Osgood, who appeared in a majority of the team's regular season before giving way to Vernon in the playoffs, was ready to take over as full time starter. Vernon was dealt to the San Jose Sharks for a pair of draft picks on August 18.
"This is a major step for the franchise and fills a big hole," said then-Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi after the trade was announced. "One of the major things we try to do is add competitive people who are winners. This guy fits that mold. . . . When you talk to players and general managers about this guy, the first thing that comes out of their mouths is 'He's a winner.' You have to have people who are known as winners -- that's the bottom line. "He may not always be pretty, but he gets it done."
"I'm feeling pretty good about it," Vernon said of the deal. "The team has youth and experience, and it looks like they're trying to go in the right direction. One reason I wanted to go to San Jose is to play a few more games -- I like to play a lot."
During the 1996-97 regular season, Vernon compiled a record of 13-11-8 record and 2.43 goals-against average. Head coach Scotty Bowman named him as the team's starter for the playoffs, and he delivered. He posted a 16-4 record and with a sparkling 1.76 goals-against average.
"This was probably the right thing for myself when presented with the situation and outcome," Vernon said. "But I can't lie, there is some bitterness. Sometimes, numbers come into play. Osgood played very well, and it was my job to help bring him along. He's one of the fine young goalies in the league. That's why I got moved, to give him the reins."
Of course, it worked out just fine for the Red Wings, as Osgood backstopped them to their second straight Stanley Cup win the following season.