On July 1st the Montreal Canadiens signed free agent goaltender Keith Kinkaid to a one year, $1.75 million deal. This move strengthens the back-up role significantly compared to last season. In November 2017 Montreal claimed Antti Niemi off waivers after he bounced around between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Flordia Panthers before landing with the Habs. The Finnish born goaltender would finish the year with a record of 7-5-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .929 save percentage, and a shutout. The following year he would put up an 8-6-2 record with a 3.78 goals against average and .887 save percentage in 17 games. On April 9th Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that Niemi wouldn’t be returning to the Habs.
Montreal Needed Another Goaltender
With the news of Niemi not returning and ultimately signing a deal in the KHL, the Habs were in need of a back-up goaltender. One of the choices they had was Charlie Lindgren who had spent the season in the AHL. Lindgren would also have to clear waivers. The Lakeville, Minnesota native hasn’t shown Montreal that he’s ready to play at the NHL level and be reliable throughout the season.
A good example of this came during the 2017-18 season where Lindgren appeared in 14 games for Montreal. He would put up a 4-8-2 record with a 3.03 goals against aveage, .908 save percentage and two shutouts. Lindgren would also drop 9 of his last 10 appearances that season. The 25-year-old netminder would give up at least five goals in five of his appearances. So with that being said the Habs needed to go out a sign a back-up.
If Lindgren is not traded he would have to go through waivers. If Lindgren is either claimed or traded, Michael McNiven and Cayden Primeau would split the goaltending duties in Laval. In the event of an injury, Montreal could re-call either Primeau or McNiven without having to put them on waivers.
Why Keith Kinkaid Is Perfect for the Habs
Keith Kinkaid was one of many solid options on the free-agent market for back-up goaltenders this season. He spent his first six years with the New Jersey Devils before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline. However, Kinkaid would not make an appearance with the Blue Jackets. He’s seen time both as a back-up and a starter during those six years. Kinkaid has put up solid career numbers with a record of 64-55-17 in 151 appearances as 131 of those have come in starts. He owns a career 2.90 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and has seven career shutouts.
During the 2016-17 season, Kinkaid had an 8-13-3 record but had a 2.64 goals-against average, .916 save percentage, and a shutout. The .916 save percentage was a career-high for Kinkaid. He may not be a full-time starter but he has shown that he can play well in a back-up role.
During the 2017-18 season, Kinkaid carried the Devils to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Cory Schneider got hurt. Kinkaid would go 26-10-3 in 41 games that season putting up a 2.77 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and one shutout. Even when Kinkaid has struggled he has still managed to put up solid numbers.
Giving Carey Price Rest
Carey Price appeared in 66 games last season however goaltender coach Stephen Waite confirmed that Kinkaid should start about 25 games next season. Niemi struggled down the stretch which forced the Habs to give Price a few extra starts that could have gone to Niemi. Kinkaid will have to adapt to less playing time after playing in 82 games over the past two seasons combined.
The last four Stanley Cup Champions had their starting goalie play less than 60 games during the regular season. In 2016 Marc-Andre Fleury played in 58 games, 2017 Matt Murray played 49 games, 2018 Braden Holtby played in 54 games and last year with Jordan Binnington playing in 32 games during the regular season.
Price has appeared in over 60 games in each of the last three seasons. It’s been shown that over the past few years if you overwork your starting goaltender you aren’t going to be going far in the Playoffs.
Why Keith Kinkaid Should Work Out
Before signing Kinkaid the Habs had options with multiple free-agent goaltenders. Colton Osmond dove into these options before free agency began.
Kinkaid struggled last year putting up a 15-18-6 record with a 3.36 goals against average, .891 save percentage, and three shutouts. He will look to bounce back next season in a Habs uniform.
Kinkaid’s biggest issue that kept him from being a full-time starter in New Jersey was dealing with the pressure. In two Stanley Cup Playoff games, he has given up 9 goals in a little over four periods of play. The pressure should be taken off of him with him moving into a back-up role in Montreal. With no pressure expect Kinkaid to perform well in Montreal.
What This Means Moving Forward
The one-year deal for Kinkaid gives both Primeau and McNiven another year to develop in Laval. McNiven is in the final year of his entry-level contract and Lindgren would have a year left on his three-year deal at the end of next season. Primeau went 25-10-1 last year with a 2.09 goals-against average, .933 save percentage, and four shutouts last year with Northeastern University. Primeau is expected to be the Canadiens goalie in the future.