Restricted free agent Kaapo Kahkonen will avoid salary arbitration after all, as the Minnesota Wild announced Monday that they have signed their Finnish goaltender to a two-year, $1.45 million deal worth an average of $725,000 per year. The contract is a two-way deal for next season and a one-way deal in 2021-22.
The 24-year-old Kahkonen started five games during his 2019-20 NHL debut, earning a record of 3-1-1 and finishing with a .913 save percentage and a 2.96 goals against average. Wild general manager Bill Guerin has already indicated the newly-signed free agent Cam Talbot will enter training camp as the team’s number one netminder, leaving Kahkonen and Alex Stalock to battle it out for the second spot. However, the fact that Kahkonen’s contract is two-way in the first year - Kahkonen would earn $250K with Iowa and $700K in St. Paul - lends credence to the idea that Kahkonen will play in Iowa for the 2020-21 season. Regardless of where he plays in 2021-22, Kahkonen will earn $750K in the second year of the deal.
The Wild’s fourth-round selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Kahkonen shined last year as the top goaltender for the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, finishing the COVID-shortened regular season with 25 wins in 34 starts, a 2.07 GAA and a .927 SV%. Kahkonen strong showing earned him the Baz Bastien Memoria Award, the AHL’s version of the Vezina trophy for best goaltender.
Kahkonen had applied for third-party arbitration prior to the Sunday deadline, but a hearing had not yet been scheduled when the Wild and Kahkonen agreed to the contract extension. The Wild have now only one unsigned RFA remaining in defenseman Louie Belpedio. Belpedio reportedly opted out of salary arbitration.