With the Habs using him in a pair of preseason games, it felt like only a matter of time before they signed Arber Xhekaj. They did just that on Monday, inking the defenceman to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal breaks down as follows:
2021-22: $750,000 NHL salary, $70,000 AHL salary, $80,000 signing bonus
2022-23: $750,000 NHL salary, $70,000 AHL salary, $70,000 signing bonus
2023-24: $775,000 NHL salary, $70,000 AHL salary, $60,000 signing bonus
The 20-year-old was invited to rookie camp last month and clearly, he made enough of an impression to warrant a contract. Xhekaj didn’t play at all last season as the OHL never started their season so he had entered rookie camp as somewhat of a wildcard, going nearly a year and a half between games. In 2019-20, he had 17 points and 88 penalty minutes in 51 games with Kitchener.
While Xhekaj could have been sent to the minors, the better play from a development standpoint was to go back to junior and that is the decision they have made with him. With his overall limited exposure at that level, he still would benefit from playing a bigger role there over a depth role with Laval or Trois-Rivieres. Accordingly, a minor league contract wasn’t likely a viable option for him.
As he’s professional-aged, Xhekaj’s contract will not slide a year like most junior players often do when they’re sent back. He will be eligible to join Laval or Trois-Rivieres once Kitchener’s season comes to an end.
In other camp news Monday, the Canadiens confirmed that they released Cody Goloubef from his tryout. He was listed among the AHL-contracted cuts going to Laval’s camp last week but he will now not bother joining the Rocket.