On Monday, December 2nd, news hit that the Montreal Canadiens were placing backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid on waivers. This came as a shock to many fans around the league. The Canadiens are currently enduring an eight-game losing streak and the team has been disastrous in all aspects.
Fans have been crying for changes to the coaching/management staff. However, none saw that the change the club would make was putting Keith Kinkaid on waivers with the plan to assign him to their AHL affiliate Laval Rocket. In doing this, the Habs also had to recall a goaltender to back up Carey Price. While most were sure it would be Charlie Lindgren, the Habs made another shocking move by promoting Cayden Primeau instead.
So why the demotion of Kinkaid and why was it Primeau who got the call over Lindgren?
Promoting Cayden Primeau Made the Most Sense to the Montreal Canadiens
Cayden Primeau is looked at as the future of the Canadiens. The former seventh-round pick is looking like an absolute steal for the Canadiens. Primeau is currently playing his first pro season with the Laval Rocket and has posted some incredible numbers. Primeau currently has a 7-4-1 record while collecting a 2.58 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
He has also recorded one shutout. However, his stat line is not the reason Primeau was recalled. Let’s be real, the 20-year-old kid from New Jersey is not about to steal the job from arguably the best goaltender in the world. So what exactly made the Canadiens choose Primeau?
Kinkaid Needs to Regain Confidence
The first reason which was explained by head coach Claude Julien was that the Habs want Kinkaid to regain confidence. To do this, they want him to get some quality starts in the AHL. This has worked in the past with players such as Victor Mete, who looked much better after returning from a stint in the AHL last season.
He came back a much more confident player. This is what the Habs are hoping for Kinkaid. Obviously playing goaltender for the NHL’s most storied franchise is a lot tougher position than a defenceman, the theory behind regaining confidence remains the same.
For Kinkaid to regain that confidence, he is going to have to play some games for Laval. Which in turn would move Primeau to the bench to serve as Kinkaid’s backup. So why not have the youngster up with the big club, getting some NHL exposure and some valuable time with Carey Price as well as Stephane Waite?
Valuable Experience for Primeau
This leads me to my second point. The valuable experience Primeau will pick up from Price and Waite will help him improve his game in the AHL. Primeau will get to practice with the Habs and face shots from the clubs top players. He will also get to be around the group and learn from Carey Price as well as Stephane Waite, who has helped groom Price into the goalie he is today. Who better for the youngster to learn from than the goalie who has been named the toughest to score against by his peers. Even if it is just for a short period.
Upcoming Back to Back Games
Another reason is that the Habs have upcoming back-to-back games on December 5th and 6th against the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche. The Habs could look to give Primeau one of those games to see how he fairs at the NHL level. While the NHL is a completely different beast than the AHL, Primeau has proven that he can handle playing at the professional level. Giving the youngster one game if they feel he is up to it is not going to destroy his development. If anything, it will further his development and allow him to understand what it takes to make it at the highest level.
What if Kinkaid Gets Claimed?
If Kinkaid does end up getting claimed by another team, it is almost a guarantee we will see Primeau returned to Laval. Charlie Lindgren will then come up to serve as Price’s back up. See, Bergevin has already shown he has faith in Lindgren. He signed him to a three-year contract extension on February 13th, 2018. This proved that he was comfortable with Lindgren longer-term and at some point was planning on him taking over the backup role.
So why sign Kinkaid? Well, Bergevin only committed to Kinkaid for one season. This brought some healthy competition between the Habs goaltenders. It also allowed for Laval to have a strong goalie tandem for this coming season. Knowing Primeau was going to be coming into his first year as a pro, Bergevin wanted to make sure he had a solid partner to lean upon.
Whether it was Kinkaid or Lindgren was yet to be determined. However, having depth is never a bad thing. Even if Kinkaid does get claimed, the Habs have another solid netminder in Michael McNiven who is currently playing for the Jacksonville Iceman of the ECHL. McNiven will get to come back up to form a solid goalie tandem with Primeau in Laval for the remainder of the season.
Short Stint for Cayden Primeau
Despite what happens with Kinkaid, it will surely be a short but valuable stint for Cayden Primeau. While many fans are questioning if it is best for his development, there is no need to worry. Primeau will not be the full-time back up behind Price for the remainder of the season. Bergevin has clearly stated what his intentions are for his young players. He has shown patience with them, including top prospects like Ryan Poehling.
A short stint in the NHL would not hurt any player’s development. This experience will only advance Primeau’s skills moving forward.
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