A third party may end up determining prospect goalie Kaapo Kahkonen’s next contract with the Wild.
Kahkonen filed for salary arbitration Saturday ahead of the league’s player-elected deadline.
The 24-year-old is coming off his two-year, entry-level contract and a career year in the American Hockey League in which he helped Iowa to its best regular-season record in franchise history.
After leading the league in wins (25) and shutouts (seven), Kahkonen was named the AHL’s most outstanding goalie. Overall, he went 25-6-3 with a goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.927) that ranked fourth.
He also impressed in the NHL, winning his NHL debut and later setting a franchise record for most saves in a game by a rookie in the midst of a 3-1-1 stint in which he had a 2.96 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Kahkonen has been in the Wild's pipeline since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2014.
While General Manager Bill Guerin has said there will be a competition among the goalies and Kahkonen could get games with the Wild, it’s likely Kahkonen returns to the minors to continue to develop – especially after the Wild signed veteran goalie Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11 million contract Friday to be its new starter.
Kahkonen and the Wild can still continue to negotiate, but a hearing will be scheduled between Oct. 20 and Nov.8 where an arbitrator could issue a ruling if a deal isn’t agreed upon beforehand.
If it got to a hearing, the Wild would get to select the term for Kahkonen - either a one- or two-year contract.
Each side would present its case, which could rely on related statistics, comparisons to similar players and the impact a player’s performance had on the team, and a verdict would be announced within 48 hours.
Most contracts, however, get settled before a hearing.
Aside from Kahkonen, the Wild has two other restricted free agents unsigned in defensemen Louie Belpedio and Brennan Menell.
All three were sent qualifying offers by Wednesday's deadline for the Wild to retain their rights, along with Jordan Greenway who signed a two-year, $4.2 million contract Saturday. Belpeido also had arbitration rights but decided not to exercise them.