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Trade Candidate Kahkonen Knows What To Expect As Sharks Near Deadline



Going into his first Trade Deadline as a pending UFA, Kaapo Kahkonen already had a taste of what this time of year can bring.

Shortly after the Minnesota Wild acquired Marc-Andre Fleury at the 2022 Deadline, they sent him to the San Jose Sharks while he was a pending RFA.

He didn’t see it coming then, but it surely gave him a taste of what the business is like.

“That was a total surprise,” Kahkonen said. “I was on the ice for a morning skate getting ready for a game, and then mid-morning skate, I got pulled off the ice and then I’m off to Calgary to meet these guys on a road trip.”

After going through what he did then, he knows what to expect now as the last-place San Jose Sharks head toward the Mar. 8 Trade Deadline this year, looking t0 likely sell off some of their higher-performing veterans for futures. Kahkonen has been involved in trade rumors all year.

”I almost feel like being through it once, for me at least, it helps me think of it less now, because I’ve gone through it once and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Kahkonen said. “If somebody else makes a call, you go wherever you’re told to go.”

San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn admires how Kahkonen is handling things.

“He has that great demeanor — all great goalies have it — where you can be even-keeled and nothing bothers you, and he’s really evolved into that type of goalie,” Quinn said. “And I think he is handling those trade rumors the same way.

“He has really grown up. I think in the past year, he’s played great hockey and you can see the maturity in him and I think that’s helped him deal with these situations.”

Kahkonen struggled mightily in his first season in San Jose, going 9-20-7 with a .883 save percentage and a 3.85 goals-against average.

After working through those struggles, the 27-year-old netminder has bumped his save percentage up to .901 on one of the worst defensive teams in hockey.

“Without that experience, he wouldn’t be playing the way he is,” Quinn said.

Kahkonen agreed: “Obviously last year, it was pretty tough. When you go through something like that, you kind of understand things that you can control and things that you can’t control and understand the situation better and try to focus on your own own job. Maybe you could say I’ve got better at that.”

“That’s sports. You have to suffer sometimes to go through some growing pains. I think he did and he’s learned from it,” Quinn said. “That’s what great athletes do, and we talked about that a lot with our young players who can develop here.”

Kahkonen also isn’t fazed by the increased workload that he might see in the coming weeks with partner Mackenzie Blackwood’s being placed on IR today.

“The same thing tomorrow. We play the Ducks at 7:30. That’s the focus right now. You can’t focus on anything [else],” he said.

Kahkonen is not as much worried about himself going into this year’s Trade Deadline than he is about his family, like his fiancee.

“I’m sure it’s the same for everyone,” he said. “As players, you just go and play and work, but the other people around you, they’re the ones that have to do more to settle into the place, find new friends, and find where they are going to go continue their hobbies.

“We are just going to go there and play hockey. It’s the same thing essentially that we’re doing here, so it’s not like it changes much for us other than the systems, the teammates and whatever, but on hockey teams, it’s pretty easy to go in. That’s at least the welcome I’ve got whenever I went to a new team for my experience.

“So I think, for players, it’s much easier than for families.”

If a trade doesn’t happen, Kahkonen has not closed the door on a re-signing with the San Jose Sharks after this season either.

“I’ve had a good time here and I’ve loved it here,” Kahkonen said. “It’s been good this year with [Blackwood], results-wise obviously not great, but I don’t want to close any doors.”

Both Kahkonen and Blackwood have performed well behind difficult circumstances, and have formed an off-the-ice friendship.

“We are about to find out here in two weeks and then it’s a much clearer picture moving forward of what’s going to happen, so it’s just basically waiting for that,” he said.

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