Detroit — It's been some 13½ years since the Red Wings acquired Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek in a trade from Buffalo, a deal which bounced Chris Osgood out of Detroit for four years.
After all this time, even after he came back and helped the Wings win another Stanley Cup in 2008, those events in the summer of 2001 still puzzle and confound Osgood.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Osgood, who will be in Toronto for Hasek's Hall of Fame induction Monday. "Through my career I really can't complain about anything. But if I was to look back on one thing that I wish would've happened, wish could've happened, that would be to stay in Detroit with Dom for those four years.
"If I would have asked, I still wonder what Ken Holland's answer would've been. I never really asked. It was never brought up, never came into question. I always wondered why."
Actually, deep down, he's knows why. And if he doesn't, his agent certainly does. Osgood was set to make $4.5 million in 2001-2002. Hasek was on the books for $8 million. The Wings, already with the highest payroll in the league in those non-salary cap days, spent $4.5 million to acquire Luc Robittaile and another $4.5 million on Brett Hull that same month.
"I couldn't justify having a tandem of Ozzie and Hasek, even though we were able to do it five years later," said Holland, the Wings general manager. "Looking back, imagine having Hasek and Ozzie for a six- or seven-year run. It would've been a tremendous luxury to have two No. 1 goalies."
The reason the Wings were able to have Hasek and Osgood as a tandem from 2006 through 2008 — a two-season run where the Wings lost in the conference finals in 2007 and won the Cup in 2008 — is because both were in the later stages of their careers and willing to play for less money.
"It wasn't about the money then," Holland said. "It was about the opportunity. It was about being in a situation where they were happy."
Both goalies played those seasons for a base salary of $750,000 plus incentives worth up to $1 million. It is doubtful that a 29-year-old Osgood would have agreed to take such a drastic pay cut in 2001.
"I am sure Chris has a different perspective on it today," Holland said. "How would he have felt in 2001? At that point in time you could renegotiate and rip up contracts. Ozzie never wanted to leave Detroit. I know that. I've known him since he was 17 years old. He married a Detroit girl. He lives in Detroit now. Kris Draper might've been his best friend in the game. He went through the farm system and worked his way to Detroit and helped us win Cups in 1997 (with Mike Vernon) and 1998.
"But there is an element of business to this, not only from the club's standpoint but from the player's standpoint. Chris worked hard for his success and his agent worked hard to get his salary to where it was. He was in the prime of his career. I don't know if Ozzie would have been ready at that time to accept a drastic cut in salary to be Dom's backup."
Make no mistake about it, putting Osgood on waivers was not an easy thing for Holland to do.
"It was a tough call for me," he said. "We're both from Medicine Hat, Alberta, and I've always told people he's like my fifth child because I've known him so long. But I felt we needed to do something to have a real impact on our team.
"And when you have the opportunity to acquire one of the greatest goalies of all time, and you know that if you don't get him he might end up in St. Louis, you've got to get aggressive and find a way to get it done."
Of course, Holland had no way of knowing that Hasek would retire for the 2002-2003 season and he'd have to scramble around and sign Curtis Joseph for a whopping $8 million.
"Oh, if I would have known that Ozzie would've stayed, for sure," he chuckled.
Holland and Osgood will be among the Red Wings' contingent in Toronto this weekend to celebrate the induction of Hasek, and former Wing Mike Modano, into the Hall of Fame.
"Looking back over the last 20 years, Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, those three goaltenders were the best of their era and three of the best of all time,"
Holland said. "To have Hasek in our net in 2002, then again coming out of the work stoppage in 2006-2007 — I felt like with Dom in the nets and we made it to the conference finals in 2007, that really teed us up for our runs in 2008 and 2009. It gave our team confidence. We really came of age.
"Dom obviously had a big role in us winning the Cup in '02, but he also played a role in helping us transition into the salary cap era. Dom's fingerprints are on a lot of our successes here in Detroit."
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky