LAS VEGAS – Alex Stalock's run with the Wild has come to an end.
The South St. Paul native was claimed off waivers Monday by the Oilers, a move that bolsters Edmonton's goaltending depth while making the hierarchy on the Wild crystal clear; the Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen tandem is here to stay.
"Our goaltending has been real good," coach Dean Evason said. "We're very happy with that. We think [on] a given night whoever we put in there will give us an opportunity to have success."
Stalock has yet to play this season, with the Wild announcing in December the 33-year-old would be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury that turned out to be myocarditis, a heart inflammation likely caused by COVID-19. He was listed on the NHL's COVID list for the first nine days of the season.
But he had been preparing for a return, skating on his own and then getting in a session with the taxi squad last week, and goaltenders have been valuable commodities this season with teams needing at least one on their taxi squads.
"Hopefully he's going to get a chance to play and play as well as he did for us down the stretch and in the playoffs last year," winger Zach Parise said. "Hopefully he'll get the opportunity to show that."
To get moved to the Wild's taxi squad or minors for playing time, Stalock required waivers; the Wild could have bypassed waivers if the team sent him on a conditioning assignment, but he would still have needed to clear waivers before going on the taxi squad or to Iowa in the American Hockey League.
The Wild could have put Stalock on its active roster and carried three goalies, but that would have limited the team's roster flexibility and created a cumbersome situation overall, especially if he wasn't going to see action.
And based on how Kahkonen's performed this season, the rookie has merited a permanent gig in the NHL.
Kahkonen, who backed up Talbot on Monday against Vegas, is on a career-high five-game win streak and has stopped 128 of 137 shots in that span.
"I don't think he's surprised anyone," Evason said.
As for Stalock, he exits the organization on the heels of his best NHL season, going 20-11-4 with a .910 save percentage and 2.67 goals-against average to lead the Wild into the playoffs last summer where he started every game over then-incumbent Devan Dubnyk. He also was the team's nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy that recognizes perseverance and dedication to hockey, a nod to his work ethic that endeared him to teammates.
The former Minnesota Duluth standout, who joined the organization in 2016 from San Jose, has a $785,000 cap hit and is under contract for one more season.
"As a player, the way he competed on the ice and the way he worked on his game was awesome to see," Parise said. "But I think what we're all going to miss about that is he's such a good guy and a great teammate. He's a funny guy. Just a good person to be around. When something like that happens and we lose a guy like that, the guys are pretty sad about it."
Winger Mats Zuccarello was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week after racking up eight points in four wins for the Wild last week.
The No. 1 star was Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who went 3-0 and gave up only two goals. Chicago right winger Patrick Kane was the second star, with three goals — including the 400th of his career — and five assists in three Blackhawks victories.
"He's been absolutely terrific in all areas," Evason said of Zuccarello. "He's competing away from the puck. He's obviously making sound plays offensively."
The Wild played in front of its largest crowd of the season Monday, with the Golden Knights allowing a limited number of fans inside T-Mobile Arena for the first time this season.
Vegas welcomed fans back at 15% capacity, and safety protocols included wearing a mask while not eating and drinking and filling out a health questionnaire before entering the arena.
Forward Marcus Johansson (upper-body injury) is not on the road trip.
"It's a situation where we're not super concerned," Evason said.