The Minnesota Wild report cards are now down to the goaltenders. With Cam Talbot’s grade done, it’s time for the man who was the main backup until the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Kaapo Kähkönen may have been traded away, but he still made an impact on the team until he left. Many were surprised when he was traded, as he was seen as one of their goaltenders of the future and the eventual replacement for Talbot.
Unfortunately for Kähkönen, the trade wasn’t to a contending team, as the San Jose Sharks had a rough season, but he did get to play. However, he may be the odd man out because they currently have two goalies under contract, a veteran in James Reimer and an up-and-coming goaltender in Adin Hill. The main reason they brought in Kähkönen was that Hill was injured and missed the majority of the season with off-and-on appearances.
Kähkönen is a restricted free agent and the Sharks will have to decide what they want to do with him. If Hill continues to be bothered by these injuries, the Sharks may have to keep Kähkönen to ensure they have a backup that is capable of playing and has experience in the NHL.
Kahkonen’s Half & Half Season
Kähkönen spent three seasons with the Wild, two of those shortened due to COVID. In his first season, he only played in five games but he showed a lot of promise with a record of 3-1-1. That gave his coaches the confidence to give him more time the following season when he backed up Talbot and played in 24 games, finishing with a record of 16-8. That leaves this season, where he played 25 games with the Wild for a record of 12-8-3. He also had a save percentage (SV%) of .910 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.87.
It was a hard season for goals-against averages for all the Wild goalies but their win/loss record is what mattered. After Kähkönen went to the Sharks, his record faltered. He played in 11 games but his record was 2-6-1 for an overall record of 14-14-4. He did have a .912 SV%, but his GAA stayed the same at 2.87, something he can really work to improve on.
Kähkönen’s regular season started out decently and hit a bump when he was traded, but it takes time to get used to a new team, especially as a goalie, as he had to learn how his defense worked in front of him and other things that come with time. He’s still a young goalie and he has talent, so it’ll be interesting to see if he stays with the Sharks or if another team will pick him up.
Kahkonen’s Final Grade
The postseason section for Kähkönen was skipped over because the Sharks did not make the playoffs, but after the way the Wild’s postseason went, many fans may have wanted him back in the net. When he was traded away, it came as quite a surprise. Everyone knew the Wild wanted to make as deep a run in the playoffs as possible but most assumed that would be with Kähkönen, not without him.
Marc-André Fleury is a great and respectable goaltender, but was he worth giving up one of their future goaltenders when it’s difficult to find a young successful goalie that could be a reliable starter for seasons to come? During the regular season, Fleury proved his worth but, in the postseason, many were not impressed.
This report isn’t about Fleury however, it’s about Kähkönen and his performance. Grading strictly on his time with the Wild, he earned a B+. Like a few other grades before him, his may seem a bit high, but in his time with the Wild this season, he did have a winning record. It may have been small, but it was a winning one. He also wasn’t given many chances to start consistently until Talbot was injured. Kähkönen proved his worth, as he went 5-0 in that time before giving the net back to his veteran counterpart.
On the other hand, Kähkönen’s grade wasn’t higher because, as always, he has room to improve. As a young goalie, this next season could be very critical in how his career unfolds. If he can have a good run with whatever team signs him, that could mean a longer-term deal with bigger money. If he doesn’t, he could continue to bounce around from team to team for seasons to come.
It’ll be interesting to follow what happens to Kähkönen this upcoming season. He’ll end up somewhere for at least another campaign, but who knows where that will be. A lot depends on Hill’s injury and if he can continue to play without missing games. Keep an eye on this offseason to see if he is re-signed by the Sharks or if he finds another team to call home.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.