Before the draft, Marc Bergevin indicated that they’d be taking a look at free agency for backup goaltenders. He found someone he liked as the Habs have signed Keith Kinkaid to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
After a career year in 2017-18 that saw him post a 2.77 GAA and a .913 SV% in 41 games with New Jersey, Kinkaid wasn’t able to repeat that performance last season. He was given the chance to be the starter when Cory Schneider went down with abdominal and hip injuries and he wasn’t able to make the most of it. He struggled to a career-worst .891 SV% with a 3.36 GAA in 41 appearances last season and then was flipped to Columbus at the trade deadline to serve as their third-string option. He did not see any action with the Blue Jackets.
While his 2018-19 season wasn’t particularly ideal, it’s still hard to not see Kinkaid as a legitimate upgrade on Antti Niemi. The fact that he has played 41 games in two straight seasons should give the Habs some confidence that he can step up and play number one minutes if Carey Price gets injured.
Speaking of Price, it’s likely that his $10.5 million cap hit prevented the Habs from shopping at the higher end of the backup market. While it’s true that they have some extra cap space as a result of Sunday’s trades of Andrew Shaw and Nicolas Deslauriers, it’s hard to justify spending a large amount on a backup when they already have the highest-paid goalie in NHL history on the roster.
Kinkaid’s signing certainly calls into question the future of Charlie Lindgren in Montreal. When he signed his three-year deal back in 2018, it looked as if he’d be Price’s backup of the future. Since then, he has struggled in two straight seasons with AHL Laval which calls his overall upside into question. The 25-year-old is now eligible for waivers next year so it will be interesting to see if the Habs try to sneak him through in September or trade him now with the thought that getting something now is better than nothing later.