Sharks News & Rumors: Kahkonen, Middleton, Knyzhov & More

In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, management was busy on deadline day, as they brought several players into the organization in Kaapo Kahkonen, Anthony Bitetto, and Antoine Morand. They also shipped out a number of players in Jake Middleton, Andrew Cogliano, and Nick Merkley. In other news, head coach Bob Boughner confirmed this past Saturday that Nikolai Knyzhov will be out for the remainder of the season.

Sharks Make Numerous Trades on Deadline Day

While none were blockbusters, the Sharks made several moves on deadline day. The first, and without a doubt the most significant, was a deal with the Minnesota Wild that saw Middleton shipped out in exchange for Kahkonen and a 2022 fifth-round pick. Moving Middleton came as no surprise, as he was talked about plenty the past few weeks and will give the Wild depth on their blue line as they prepare for the postseason.

Kaapo Kahkonen Minnesota Wild
Kaapo Kahkonen, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for Kahkonen, the Sharks are hoping that the 25-year-old may have what it takes to become their starting netminder down the road. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two NHL seasons with the Wild but has lacked consistency. In 25 games this season, he has recorded a 2.87 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .910 save percentage (SV%). He will start on Thursday night versus the Edmonton Oilers and is expected to split the net with James Reimer for the time being as Adin Hill remains out with a lower-body injury.

The second deal acting general manager Joe Will made was acquiring Bitetto from the New York Rangers in exchange for Merkley. It will be interesting to see what the Sharks plan to do with the 31-year-old defenceman, as he has spent the entire 2021-22 campaign in the American Hockey League (AHL) but does have 197 career NHL games under his belt. As for Merkley, he has bounced around plenty since being taken 30th overall in the 2015 Draft by the Arizona Coyotes and has had trouble establishing himself as an everyday NHLer.

The third move saw them ship Cogliano to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick. The Sharks also retained $500,000 of the 34-year-old’s $1 million cap hit, which is set to expire at season’s end. In 56 games this season he has recorded just four goals and 15 points but brings a wealth of experience to the Avs having played in 1,122 career games, along with an additional 100 in the postseason.

One final move, and a rather insignificant one at that, saw the Sharks trade goaltender Alexei Melnichuk to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Morand. This trade will likely not turn out to have any sort of impact at the NHL level, as Morand at 23 years of age has just 10 points in 44 AHL games this season. Melnichuk, on the other hand, really struggled in the minors as well, recording a cringe-worthy 3.92 GAA along with a .867 SV% in 31 games.

Knyzhov Out for Remainder of Season

The Sharks were hoping 2021-22 would be another step forward for Knyzhov, who surprised last season. In what was his rookie year, he appeared in all of the team’s 56 games, recording 10 points while averaging nearly 17 minutes in ice time per game. Unfortunately, however, he has yet to play in a game in 2021-22, and will not suit up in any of the team’s remaining 19 games.

Related: Ranking the Sharks’ 2022 Trade Deadline Moves

The recently turned 24-year-old had a setback in training camp after sports hernia surgery and is still dealing with that, as well as an infection that came as a result of the operation. It is a tough situation for both him and the organization, as he seemed to be a promising young player after a breakout rookie season. It will be interesting to see what happens with him now, as his entry-level contract will expire at the end of 2021-22.

Up Next for the Sharks

The Sharks have just two games remaining on their schedule for the week, both of which are against divisional opponents. The first will come on Thursday night against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, while the second will be a Saturday tilt against the Anaheim Ducks. Though playoffs are out of the picture, this team has a chance to play spoiler to teams with playoff aspirations for the remainder of the season.

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