Keith Kinkaid is looking forward to backing up and learning from one of the best goaltenders in the world in Carey Price.
The Montreal Canadiens signed Kinkaid to a one-year, US$1.75-million contract in the opening minutes of NHL free agency on Canada Day.
“I’m really excited to work with him (Price) and bounce ideas off each other,” said Kinkaid on a conference call from his home in Hoboken, N.J. “I can gain a lot of skills from him and see how he goes about his day on and off the ice.”
The Canadiens made a potentially bigger move later Monday, tendering an offer sheet to forward Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes. The proposed contract is for five years, with an average annual value of $8.454 million. If Carolina does not match it, the Canadiens must send a first-, second- and third-round pick to the Hurricanes.
The last offer sheet tendered in the NHL was in 2013 when the Calgary Flames gave one to Ryan O’Reilly. The deal was matched by the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canadiens needed a solid backup goalie to take some of the pressure off Price, who played 66 games last season. Antti Niemi, who signed with Finnish club Jokerit of the KHL last month, managed only eight wins as Price’s backup last year.
Kinkaid has played 151 career NHL games since making his debut in 2012, all with the New Jersey Devils. He has a career 2.90 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
Last season, the native of Farmingville, N.Y., saw his efficiency dip. He was 15-18-6 with a 3.36 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage with three shutouts in 41 games. Kinkaid was traded to the Blue Jackets for a fifth-round pick on Feb. 25, but he did not play a single game for Columbus last season.
Kinkaid says he is looking to have a “bounce-back” year with Montreal.
“The team (New Jersey) as a whole didn’t really perform where we wanted to,” said the goalie, who turns 30 on Thursday. “I can learn from last year and even the year before. Never get too high, never get too low.
“Just learn how to deal with the roughness of an NHL season.”
The 6-foot-3 netminder met with Canadiens front-office staff last week and liked the organization’s drive and direction.
“You look at the team and they’re young and hungry for playoffs,” said Kinkaid, who played for the U.S., at the 2016 and 2018 world championships. “They just missed them last year. We have a great opportunity this year to get back in the playoffs. The city as a whole, the fans, the atmosphere, it’s always fun playing there. They always have a packed barn there.
“I know they expect a lot from their team. It’s a hockey town there. I’m very excited for that. I thrive under that type of pressure and excitement.”
The Canadians also signed forward Riley Barber to a one-year, two-way contract ($700,000 in the NHL, $300,000 in the American Hockey League with a guaranteed salary of $400,000).
Barber has spent the past two seasons with AHL Hershey.