The Minnesota Wild have already experienced huge changes in the crease this offseason, moving Devan Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks and then committing to a three-year deal with Cam Talbot. While he will be expected to become the team’s starter in the short-term, there is still a prospect who will be challenging for the job down the line.
Kaapo Kahkonen, the reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year, has signed a two-year contract with Minnesota. That will remove the need for salary arbitration, which Kahkonen elected last week. The deal is a two-way contract in 2020-21, a one-way in 2021-22 and will carry an average annual value of $725K.
Kahkonen, 24, was a fourth-round pick by the Wild in 2014 and remains one of the top goaltending prospects in the league. In his sophomore season at the AHL level he posted a .927 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average, earning him the top honors. He also received five games at the NHL level, where he more than held his own, posting a .913.
When asked about where the Talbot signing leaves Kahkonen, Wild GM Bill Guerin told Michael Russo of The Athletic that it gives them more time for his development and that “the last time we want to do is rush him along.”
Notably, a two-year deal will actually take Kahkonen to Group VI unrestricted free agency should he not get an NHL opportunity. Of course, the situation is also complicated by the expansion draft, where the Wild will only be able to protect one goaltender. It seems unlikely that Seattle would be targeting Talbot, but if he has a strong season in the Minnesota net the Wild will have to decide whether to leave him or Kahkonen unprotected.