Montreal Canadiens defenseman Arber Xhekaj
Photo credit: Habs EOTP

Young Defenseman Likely to Be Traded Imminently: Arber Xhekaj is Putting a Lot of Pressure on Kent Hughes

Published January 6, 2024 at 5:55 PM

In recent weeks within the Montreal Canadiens organization, the majority of injuries in Montreal or Laval have involved forwards, leaving most defensemen, with a few exceptions, healthy.

Currently, there is an obvious surplus of defensemen, while key forwards are missing from the main roster.

Within the Canadiens, there are eight defensemen, while the Rocket has nine. This overabundance creates an undesirable situation, with several of them even remaining unused.

On this point, Anthony Marcotte, the Rocket's game commentator, highlighted something that caught the fans' attention. His intervention is particularly relevant, as he generally refrains from speculating in this direction.

Here's what he mentioned:

«A trade in the air?

I wouldn't be surprised if a trade occurs soon with the Rocket. We find ourselves again with 8 healthy defensemen, with the possibility that another defenseman from Montreal might join, maybe even for a 2-week conditioning stint. Gustav Lindstrom hasn't played since December 9th. The Canadiens seem to fear losing him on waivers, otherwise, he would already be back with the Rocket.

Jean-François Houle seems to want to use Olivier Galipeau and Nicolas Beaudin more. For now, they prefer Mattias Norlinder who isn't having a good season with only 2 pts and a -19 in 21 games. Do they want to showcase him? It's possible. In the case of Galipeau, here's someone who never hesitates to block shots and sacrifice for the team's cause. As for Beaudin, he just had his second participation in the Spengler Cup where he had a very respectable ice time. I would like to see him get a real chance, which he hasn't had yet this year.

Meanwhile, defensemen Miguel Tourigny, Noah Laaouan, and Christopher Ortiz are all waiting for a chance to prove themselves in the American League. None of them has received a call-up from Trois-Rivières, despite having agreements with the Laval Rocket. [...]

To be continued...» - Anthony Marcotte

Additionally, Arber Xhekaj's performances with the affiliate team are increasing pressure on Kent Hughes. Xhekaj shows solid play, both offensively and defensively, and is considered a key defenseman by coach Jean-François Houle.

In 11 games with the Rocket, the 22-year-old has accumulated three goals and nine points, a promising performance. He seems to have the potential for more than just a sixth or seventh defenseman role in the NHL.

Thus, a call-up to the Canadiens will eventually be necessary for him, as highlighted by the excellent Marco D'Amico, adding to the problem of surplus defensemen in Montreal.

Inevitably, the Canadiens' general manager will need to move certain elements to streamline the defensive roster, whether in Montreal or Laval.

Marcotte suggested that Mattias Norlinder could be involved in a trade, no longer having a place in the organization. The Swede is going through a difficult period, having only scored two points in 21 games.

In short, it is high time for Hughes to act to optimize the situation within his organization.
January 6   |   485 answers
Young Defenseman Likely to Be Traded Imminently: Arber Xhekaj is Putting a Lot of Pressure on Kent Hughes

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