HabsWorld.net -- 

Sunday afternoon was the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.  Montreal had six of them but only elected to tender two of those players.

Not surprisingly, those receiving an offer were blueliners Justin Barron and Arber Xhekaj.  Barron split this season between Montreal and Laval and while he had some struggles at times, he has shown enough to warrant a longer look.  Sunday’s trade of Johnathan Kovacevic to New Jersey helps to open up a full-time roster spot for the 22-year-old who is now waiver-eligible moving forward.

As for Xhekaj, his sophomore year didn’t quite go as planned.  He dealt with an early injury and then had a stint with the Rocket before being a regular for Montreal in the second half of the season.  Nonetheless, the toughness he brings to the back end made him a lock to be cleared.  Notably, negotiations for his deal will be made with a new agent now as he and his brother Florian signed with Bartlett Hockey earlier today.

Meanwhile, the four players who weren’t tendered offers are forwards Lias Andersson, Filip Cederqvist, and Jesse Ylonen along with defenceman Mattias Norlinder.  Andersson and Cederqvist signed overseas earlier this offseason although the Habs could have elected to retain their rights but neither loss is significant.  Ylonen, meanwhile, was informed a few days ago that his request to get a fresh start would be granted.

As for Norlinder, he was one of the last cuts at training camp, leading to some hope that he could bounce back after a rough 2022-23 campaign.  Instead, the struggles continued as his role and playing time was cut considerably with Laval.  While they could have opted to give him another look, it appears they’ve decided to try someone else instead; Adam Engqvist will debut in Laval next season and likely take his spot.

With today’s activity, Montreal has 41 committed contracts for 2024-25 out of the limit of 50.  That number will increase to 43 once Barron and Xhekaj sign so they do have a few contract slots available heading into unrestricted free agency.