Carey Price made it very clear he doesn’t want to have to babysit a backup goalie.
That wasn’t good news for Canadiens goalie prospects Charlie Lindgren, Michael McNiven and Cayden Primeau, but it was great news for Keith Kinkaid, who was signed to a one-year, US$1.75-million contract by GM Marc Bergevin on July 1 as a free agent to become Price’s backup next season.
“I just want a guy that I can relate to; obviously, as a goaltender, you’re going to relate to whoever your partner is in some aspect,” Price, who will turn 32 on Aug. 16, told Arpon Basu of The Athletic two days before NHL free agency began on July 1 . “But I feel like I’m pretty compatible with whoever I’m matched up with. I’m pretty easy going in that regard. But it’s nice to have a guy that you don’t have to babysit or anything like that. I don’t really want to be a mentor at this point. I want a guy that I can work with.”
Price enjoyed working with Antti Niemi, but the Finnish goalie’s game fell apart last season, which meant Price had to play 66 games, matching his career high. Price had no help down the stretch as the Canadiens came up two points short of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Price played 28 out of 29 games before getting a night off in the season finale after the Canadiens were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
“I’ve been in the league for a few years now. He definitely won’t have to babysit me,” Kinkaid said about Price Monday afternoon when he met with the media in the Canadiens’ locker room at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “It will be a good relationship. A strong, competitive relationship, and I think that’s key to getting the most out of each other.”
Kinkaid didn’t want to put a number on how many games he might play next season and said he didn’t discuss that with Bergevin before signing with the Canadiens. But the Canadiens definitely want to cut down on Price’s workload in the second season of his eight-year, US$84-million contract. Price ranked second among NHL goalies in games played last season, with one less than the Minnesota Wild’s Devan Dubnyk.
The Canadiens are hoping 30-year-old Kinkaid can find his game again after posting a 15-18-6 record last season with the New Jersey Devils, along with a 3.36 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. The Devils traded Kinkaid to Columbus on Feb. 25 for a fifth-round pick at the 2022 NHL Draft, but he never played a game with the Blue Jackets. The previous season, Kinkaid had a 26-10-3 record with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage with the Devils.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Kinkaid said Monday while wearing his new Canadiens sweater with Niemi’s old No. 37. “Happy to have another opportunity to play in the best league in the world. To work with a guy like Carey Price is going to be tremendous. If I can take his workload and lighten it up for him a little bit … I want to be a guy they can count on when they need somebody to win a game and give Carey a night off. I’m just excited to be here. I heard the guys are great and it’s an up-and-coming team here.”
Kinkaid said he hasn’t met with Price since signing with the Canadiens, but they have exchanged texts. Kinkaid arrived in Montreal Sunday night and will stay in the city Tuesday as he looks for a place to live with his girlfriend.
The Canadiens’ new backup goalie grew up on Long Island and was a big New York Islanders fan, but his favourite goalie was the Devils’ Martin Brodeur. Kinkaid played two seasons at Union College and won the Ken Dryden Award as the best goalie in the ECAC during the 2010-11 season, when he had a 25-10-3 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He was never selected at the NHL Draft and signed with the Devils as a free agent.
Being a backup goalie isn’t an easy job — especially behind someone like Price, when you can sometimes go long stretches without playing.
“It’s more of a mental mindset that you have to embrace,” Kinkaid said. “You just got to do your job. You want to be for the team, so you just got to do whatever it takes for the team to get in the playoffs again. I’m just going to be the best teammate I can with him. Work with him, learn from him and push each other to be better.
“I think the past few years I’ve gotten the highs and lows of the NHL and the rigours of it,” Kinkaid added. “I think it will just help me going forward, especially in a place like Montreal where there’s a lot of pressure. But there’s a lot of pressure in any organization.”
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