Sometimes, being traded to a new team is exciting from the jump, but for newest San Jose Sharks goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen, it was more of a stressful start.
“I was actually on the ice and they pulled me out of there, from the morning skate, and just told me I had to leave the ice. At first, I was kind of thinking that something happened to someone in my family or something, so I was scared,” the ex-Minnesota Wild goaltender shared. “But then I heard I was getting traded.”
Today’s deadline marks the first time Kähkönen has been traded, and while it came as a shock to the netminder, it’s a move he is excited to make now that he knows everybody is okay.
“When I heard that I’m going to San Jose, I was also really excited about the opportunity,” he said.
Kähkönen was acquired along with a 2022 fifth-round pick for Jake Middleton.
Of those in the San Jose Sharks organization who have reached out to Kähkönen so far, Evgeni Nabokov has made it a point to introduce himself to his latest student: “He gave me a call and welcomed me in. Talking to him for the first time, I really had a good feeling off that phone call. Obviously, I know he played a long career. He was a great goalie in the NHL so I think anytime you get to work with a person [who has] been in the game for so long in this league, it’s a great opportunity to learn something and keep building my game.”
From the outside looking in, Kähkönen has recognized the opportunity he has in front of him as he joins the San Jose Sharks.
“The games I’ve played against San Jose, I remember, you know, there’s a lot of good players there,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a team that’s going to be able to compete in the near future, and it’s gonna be a great opportunity.”
Kähkönen, James Reimer, and Adin Hill are all under contract through the 2022-23 season, so goaltending will be an interesting group to watch as the Sharks hope to make a more significant impact on the standings next season.
He mentioned a few times that he is excited to meet the team, noting that he only knows one current member of Team Teal.
“Nick Bonino played here [in Minnesota] last year, so I know him. I’m trying to think, I don’t think I know anyone else before but like I said, really looking forward to meeting everyone.”
In his own words, Kähkönen works to make the game easier for his teammates, and San Jose Sharks fans may see what he can do in teal soon as he is set to join the team in Calgary. If he does, in fact, make the game easier for everyone, it will go a long way in making a great first impression with both the team and the fans.
“I try to be a little bit of a mix of being calm and reading a play really well, but obviously, sometimes you have to battle and try to make big stops,” he shared. “So you [have] to be able to react, but I really try to base my game on, you know, you trying to make it easy for myself and for the defensemen in front of me and have everything under control.”
With 54 games in the NHL under his belt, split over three seasons, Kähkönen is just coming into his own in the show.
“Obviously, getting up to the NHL for last season, it’s a new league, new players and new challenges. So once you get a little more comfortable with that, and get more games in, everything starts to come a little more natural. There’s of course still things that I want to improve on, and Nabokov, the career he had in this league, is for sure someone that I can learn from.”
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