Cup Winners Parting Ways With Starting Goaltender Is a Rare Move
How rare is it for a team to get rid of its Cup-winning goaltender before the start of the next season? Chicago's decision to let Niemi walk makes it just the sixth time it's happened since 1967, when the league doubled in size, expanding from six teams to 12.
Here's the list...
2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
Out: Antti Niemi
In: Marty Turco
The Blackhawks were in a tough spot, forced to deal with salary cap hell and the ensuing roster purge (Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, etc. etc. etc.) to get under the $59.4 million ceiling. In an uncapped NHL -- or if the team was smarter with some if its previous contracts, like Brian Campbell, for example -- Chicago probably doesn't make this trade-off and sticks with its 26-year-old goalie.
2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning
Out: Nikolai Khabibulin
In: Sean Burke
Tampa Bay was the last team to win the Cup in the pre-lockout NHL, defeating the Calgary Flames in a seven-game series. Nikolai Khabibulin, acquired in a trade with Phoenix four years earlier, was the No. 1 goaltender, and eventually signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks coming out of the lockout. The Lightning replaced him with John Grahame, who was a backup during the Cup season and veteran free agent signing Sean Burke. Tampa Bay made the playoffs during the 2005-06 season, but lost in the opening round to the Ottawa Senators in five games.
2002-03 Detroit Red Wings
Out: Dominik Hasek
In: Curtis Joseph
Prior to the 2001-02 season the Red Wings sent forward Slava Kozlov -- part of the Russian Five -- and a first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for the legendary Dominik Hasek. He was 36 and coming off an eight-year stretch that saw him lead the NHL in save percentage six times. Of course, he made the 2002-03 Red Wings an unstoppable force -- just look at that roster, loaded with future Hall of Famers -- as they steamrolled their way to a 51-21-10 record regular season record, before winning 16 of their 23 playoff games and winning a third Stanley Cup in six years. Hasek announced his retirement after the season, and was replaced by veteran Curtis Joseph. The Red Wings made the playoffs the following season, but were swept in the opening round by the Anaheim Ducks. Hasek eventually returned to the NHL -- and the Red Wings -- but was never the same, dominant player he was in his prime.
1996-97 Detroit Red Wings
Out: Mike Vernon
In: Chris Osgood/Kevin Hodson/Norm Maracle
UPDATE: I originally missed/forgot about Mike Vernon and the 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings. Vernon and Chris Osgood both played for the team that season, with Vernon starting 20 playoff games, including all 16 Detroit wins. Following the season he was traded to San Jose for a couple of draft picks. Osgood took over the full-time No. 1 job during the 1997-98 season (and won the Cup) with Kevin Hodson and Norm Maracle backing him up.
1978-79 Montreal Canadiens
Out: Ken Dryden
In: Dennis Herron
Ken Dryden played just seven full seasons in the NHL -- and part of an eighth -- and was one of the best, most accomplished goaltenders to ever play, leading the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups, the last of which was during the 1978-79 season. Dryden retired following the season at the age of 31, and was replaced by Denis Herron, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It took Montreal seven years to win its next Cup, when the man in the crease was a 20-year-old rookie named Patrick Roy.
1971-72 Boston Bruins
Out: Gerry Cheevers
In: Jacques Plante, Ross Brooks & John Adams
The Bruins used two goalies during the '71-72 season, splitting their starts almost 50/50 with a platoon of Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston. Cheevers played eight games during the playoffs, winning six, and decided to take his talents to the WHA the following season. He was originally selected by New England, and was quickly sent to the Cleveland Crusaders, where he played three seasons before returning to the NHL during the 1976 campaign. Johnston remained with the Bruins during the '72-73 season, while Jacques Plante, Ross Brooks and John Adams all saw action with the team. The Bruins were eliminated in the first round by the New York Rangers in five games.