The Minnesota Wild were busy on trade deadline as they sent goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and a fifth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Jacob Middleton, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Drafted in the fourth-round in the 2014 NHL Draft, Kahkonen was possibly in line to become a potential starter for the Wild. He stepped up as a rookie as he had a strong first season in 2020-21 where he went 16-8-0 with a .902 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average. The potential was there for him to provide a steady presence in net for them in the future as his career was just starting off.
This season Kahkonen is still posting strong and reliable numbers in net, as he owns a 12-8-3 record with a .910 SV% and a 2.87 GAA. The Wild have had some struggles in the crease lately and that prompted them to go out and make another move.
Acquiring Fleury Makes Kahkonen Expendable
Minutes before, the Wild made a major move in order to bring in Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks and shore up their goaltending depth. With Fleury coming in, Kahkonen easily becomes expendable as the Wild now have a solid tandem in net with Cam Talbot as the starter. Should anything happen to him, they have Fleury to look to in the crease to take over. There were rumblings previously that the Wild were in on Fleury and looking to make a move before the deadline.
For Kahkonen it’s tough as he is now going from a team that’s in a playoff spot, to one that is currently seventh in the Pacific Division. He still has a lot of promise as a potential starter and going to the San Jose Sharks, gives him the chance to make his mark and earn that opportunity. The Sharks have relied on James Reimer (.916 SV%) and Adin Hill (.906) in net. Does one or both get moved with Kahkonen now in the fold? It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
Wild Bulk Up on Defense
Middleton’s name has been circulating the rumour mill for some time. Now, he just makes a contending team like the Wild much deeper on the blue line with his presence. Already boasting a defend with the likes of Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Alex Goligoski and Jared Spurgeon, Middleton becomes a name that adds size, grit and strength.
Seen as a late bloomer, Middleton has come into his own as he plays a very mean and physical game. Already with a solid top-four, the Wild fill out their third pairing with a player that can also be relied on in a short-handed situation. Many teams were lining up to try and acquire him and the Wild took advantage to move an asset out for something that could benefit them as they push for the playoffs.