The Minnesota Wild have some decisions to make.
It’s been duly noted by every 10KRinks writer that this already odd offseason will have a lot of things up in the air for the Wild roster. Teams not in the playoffs can currently make roster moves and trades with other teams, something the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins have already taken advantage of.
The team could use a goaltender and a great center. Though, the defensive corps would take a severe hit in a trade for a center, and a big-name goaltender would make little sense for the team that’s between legitimate competition and bottoming out.
Stalock to Handle Large Game Load
The last time Stalock was a starting goaltender was with the Iowa Wild in his first year in this organization in 2016-17. Before that, he was a starter for the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate from 2009-11 and in 2012-13. Though he hasn’t started a majority of a team’s games since playing in Des Moines, and has only done so twice in his professional career, Stalock is coming off a season where he played the most games in a single NHL season in his career with 38.
Even in a tandem situation, he should be slated to start somewhere between 40 and 50 games. No matter the situation, that is a lot of games for an NHL goaltender, especially one who has never been a bonafide starter.
Although Stalock won 20 games this season for Minnesota, a lot of that is due to the strong defensive corps that the Wild had in 2019-20. His goals against average and save percentage were both near the bottom of the NHL for starters with more than 30 games played. His save percentage above expected was also near the bottom of the league as well. One stat he excelled in was his expected save percentage on unblocked shots. There, he ranked third in the NHL this season at 95.79 percent among goaltenders with 30 or more games played, according to MoneyPuck.com.
Get Kahkonen Ample NHL Experience
Let’s be honest: Minnesota won’t know if Kahkonen can be a good NHL goaltender until they see him actually play in the NHL. Five games isn’t a big enough sample size, and now is the Wild’s best time to give him that chance before they decide to move forward with Kahkonen for the future or move on to look for other goaltenders.
The 24-year-old has spent just two seasons in North America after being selected by the Wild in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Over those two years, he’s played 39 and 34 games respectively. This past season, he recorded a 2.07 goals against average and a .927 save percentage en route to an AHL goaltender of the year award.
In a tandem situation that sees a projected total of roughly 30 to 40 games this season, he can get regular time against some of the best forwards in the NHL and see if he is ready to be a No. 1, on his way to becoming a No. 1 or if he doesn’t look to fit that role now or in the future.
If Kahkonen impresses early and remain consistently good in net, these tandem projections would obviously fluctuate. If he proves to be able to handle a larger game load and be successful, that is the best-case scenario for the Wild.
New Goaltending Guru
The Wild hired Frederic Chabot to replace longtime goaltending coach Bob Mason this offseason. Before getting to this position, he was the Wild’s goaltending development coach in the organization since 2015.
Luckily, he has worked with both of these goalies before. When Stalock first came to the Wild organization, he was the starter in Iowa for a year, where Chabot was goaltending coach. After that season, Stalock hasn’t been back to the AHL. In Kahkonen’s case, Chabot has been his goaltending coach ever since he got to North America two years ago.
The Wild’s goaltenders have some experience of success under Chabot at the AHL level, now this season the team’s best hope is that he can rekindle that improvement to get Stalock and Kahkonen to be an effective NHL goaltending duo.