Canadiens News and Rumours: Xhekaj, Edmundson, Price & More

The Montreal Canadiens are into their second week of the season after a relatively good start. With big wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Habs found themselves in the thick of things early on, especially with four rookie defencemen playing every night. With players coming off injured reserve soon, there will be some tough decisions to make in the next couple of weeks; here is a look at what has been happening this past week.

Canadiens Xhekaj Makes a Big Impression

Arber Xhekaj’s road to the NHL is a story on its own. He was undrafted in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the NHL before walking into the Canadiens’ rookie camp as a free agent in 2021 and getting a three-year, entry-level contract right after being cut and sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL. In the OHL, he was a dominant force who laid punishing checks, could go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league and put fear into the opposing team’s hearts.

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Xhekaj had another excellent camp with the Habs this year and was destined to be regular with the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League (AHL). Then, with injuries to Joel Edmundson and Mike Matheson, spots opened up for him to play for Montreal on opening night, and he played well. He has played every game since, making a name for himself as a skilled skater who hits hard and isn’t afraid to fight.

Arber Xhekaj Hamilton Bulldogs
Arber Xhekaj, Hamilton Bulldogs (Brandon Taylor/OHL Images)

The Canadiens played the Arizona Coyotes, who have Zack Kassian – who ran Canadiens goalie Samuel Montembault last season, and no one came to Montembault’s aid. Micheal Pezzetta told Xhekaj about this, and he decided he would get back at Kassian during the game. He just laughed at Kassian and exchanged words, then the fight was on, and Xhekaj manhandled Kassian. People have taken notice of the young defenceman and his throwback hockey style; in the next game, he scored his first goal and had an assist, giving him three points in his first five games with 13 penalty minutes (PIM).

Canadiens Could Move Edmundson

As Edmundson gets closer to returning, the Canadiens will be in a bit of a sticky situation on the left side defence. Kaiden Guhle, Xhekaj, and Jordan Harris are all playing fairly well and have played well enough to stay with the club, but with Edmundson returning in the next week or so, one of them will have to be moved to make room.

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Guhle has earned the right to stay and is pretty much untouchable; Xhejak brings an intangible that no other player has and is a fan favourite playing bottom-six minutes, which is exactly where he should be. Harris is slated to be a future top-four defenceman and will get bumped from that spot. There is an argument that either Xhekaj or Harris could use time in Laval, but they equally deserve to stay in Montreal.

Related: Canadiens’ Rookie Defensemen Make Edmundson Expendable

Another solution to this problem – which is an excellent problem to have – would be to trade a veteran defenceman to make room for rookies. David Savard, Chris Wideman, Matheson and Edmundson are veterans: Savard has two years left on his contract after this season, Matheson was just acquired, and Wideman just signed a two-year deal. Wideman and Savard are right-handed defencemen, which the Canadiens are sorely lacking, and that leaves only one player who would be a great candidate to trade: Edmundson. He has one year left after this season, is a Stanley Cup winner, and is a great leader who can play top-four minutes. He is the logical choice to move if they want to make room, and he would be a great asset to any contending team.

Canadiens Price Not Ready to Retire

Canadiens star Carey Price says he’s not ready to retire but wants to live day-to-day life pain-free. Price has had lingering knee issues since the magical Stanley Cup run in 2021, and maybe since the infamous Chris Krieder incident in the 2014 Playoffs – he ran Price and knocked him out of the series against the New York Rangers with a knee injury that required surgery. Price has been the face of the Habs for 15 seasons and continues to be a dominating force in the Montreal area, but with his injury troubles, it looks more and more like he will not be returning to the ice any time soon, if ever.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Price doesn’t want surgery on his knee and says he has issues walking up and down stairs and playing with his children. He wants to be pain-free before he thinks of playing hockey again and after talking to several people with the same issue, he is optimistic he can recover over time. He has four years left on his contract and wants to be a part of the organization until he officially retires. Price has played 712 games for the Canadiens with a Habs record of 361 wins. He has also won the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, William M. Jennings Trophy, and a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy over his career.

Canadiens Prospects Dominating Their Leagues

The Canadiens have several prospects who are playing well. With so much talent in the system, the future in Montreal looks very bright; the dominant ones had a strong preseason and camp and are continuing that solid play in their league. Some questioned the move to return them to their leagues, but general manager (GM) Kent Hughes was adamant that player development is a top priority and they will not rush any player.

Related: Canadiens Prospect Report: Goaltending, Beck & More

Filip Mesar has played three games with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL after spending some time with Laval and has three goals and seven points. Owen Beck has 12 points and six goals in seven games for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, including a run of seven points in two games last week. Joshua Roy has 19 points in ten games, including six goals for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Logan Mailloux has returned to action for the London Knights after working out with the Canadiens all summer, and so far, he has two points in three games. Still, he will need an entire season to determine his abilities after only playing 24 games in the past three seasons.

That’s the news and rumours for the week. The Canadiens begin a road trip on Thursday and have a strict schedule ahead. But, so far, so good for the rebuilding team; we’ll soon see if they are in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes or if they are ready to take the next step in this rebuild.

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