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LI's Keith Kinkaid excited to play for Rangers

Keith Kinkaid of the Canadiens takes part in

Keith Kinkaid of the Canadiens takes part in the opening ceremony prior to their home game against the Red Wings at the Bell Centre on Oct. 10, 2019, in Montreal. Credit: Getty Images/Minas Panagiotakis

Keith Kinkaid grew up an Islanders fan, but that’s behind him now, after the 31-year-old goaltender agreed to a two-year, $1.75 million contract Friday with the Rangers.

"It's kind of funny, I'm playing for two of the three Metro teams now, and it's not the one I grew up rooting for,’’ Kinkaid said with a laugh. "But you know, I was very excited to sign this deal with the Rangers, and a lot of my buddies are Ranger fans, so they're pumped.’’

A Farmingville native who spent eight seasons in the Devils organization after signing with them as a free agent out of Union College in 2011, Kinkaid was a full-time NHLer for four seasons with New Jersey before signing as a free agent with Montreal last year. He struggled there and was demoted to the minors, where he spent most of 2019-20.

With the Rangers, he will add a veteran presence to a young goaltending corps that features two 24-year-olds, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev (assuming he resigns with the club as a restricted free agent) at the top. Second-year pro Adam Huska and rookie Tyler Wall are behind them, and 2018 draft pick Olof Lindbom waits in the wings in his native Sweden. On Wednesday, the Rangers selected not one, but two goalies in the 2020 draft.

Veteran presence, though, is likely not the only reason the Rangers brought in Kinkaid. All existing teams (except Vegas, which is exempt) will be required to expose at least one goaltender under contract in 2021-22 for the NHL’s Seattle expansion draft next summer. Among the goaltenders already in the organization, only Georgiev would be eligible for the draft, and the Rangers will certainly protect him. Signing Kinkaid gives them someone they can expose.

(The same consideration may apply to defenseman Anthony Bitetto, an Island Park native, whom the Rangers also signed Friday.)

Kinkaid isn't thinking about that though. To him, signing with the Rangers allows him to stay close to home and get a chance to rebound from a rough 2019-20 season. He played only six games for Montreal and was 1-1-3, with a goals-against average of 4.24 and a save percentage of .875 before being sent to the AHL. He went 3-7-3, with a 3.44 GAA and .876 save percentage in 13 games with Laval before being loaned to AHL Charlotte, where he was 2-1-1, 2.24, .924 in four games).

"I know I'm a better goalie than last year, and I showed that in Charlotte when I got the opportunity,’’ he said. "I know I can be good for this [Rangers] organization. I just want to show them what I can be for them.’’

Players file for arbitration

Georgiev, defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, and forwards Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux all filed for arbitration Saturday.

Strome, 27, was the Rangers’ third-leading scorer, with 18 goals, 41 assists, 59 points (all career highs) and DeAngelo, 24, was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, and top-scoring defenseman, with 15 goals, 38 assists and 53 points (also, all career highs).

Forward Phil DiGiuseppe also has arbitration rights, but did not file.

The first day of arbitration hearings is scheduled for Oct. 20. Hearings are scheduled to run through Nov. 8.

Fast signs with Carolina

Unrestricted free agent Jesper Fast signed a three-year deal worth a reported $2 million per with the Carolina Hurricanes. Fast, 28, was voted the Rangers’ Player’s Player for the last five seasons running, a team record. He had 12 goals, 17 assists (29 points) in 69 games in 2019-20 and overall had 55 goals, 92 assists in six-plus seasons for the Rangers.

Along with Fast, the Rangers also lost forward Vinni Lettieri, who spent all of 2019-20 in Hartford. Lettieri signed a two-year deal with Anaheim . . . Forward Anthony Greco, signed by the Rangers Friday, was among three Long Islanders the club signed on the first day of free agency. Greco grew up in Massapequa Park.

New York Sports