Arber Xhekaj and Justin Barron Receive Qualifying Offers From Montreal Canadiens

  • Xhekaj is a short-term play for the Canadiens as young players develop
  • Justin Barron one of three right-hand shot defensemen of the future
  • Breaking down the Canadiens' defense after Johnathan Kovacevic trade
Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens announced on Sunday that the team submitted qualifying offers to defencemen Justin Barron and Arber Xhekaj. Barron played in 48 games for the Canadiens last season, registering seven goals and six assists. Barron hasn't played a huge role yet, but he will soon be a big part of their blue line. Johnathan Kovacevic getting traded to the New Jersey Devils before free agency will open up a spot on the Canadiens blueline for Barron, David Reinbacher, Logan Mailloux, or Lane Hutson. Arber Xhekaj played just 44 games last season, leading the team in penalty minutes and hits by a defenceman. He also finished the season with the second-highest plus/minus on the team with a +6.

The Canadiens have a influx of talent on the back end. Their top six heading into the season looks like this:

  • Matheson - Barron
  • Guhle - Savard
  • Xhekaj - Harris
  • Struble

Waiting in the wings for the Habs are Lane Hutson, Logan Mailloux, and David Reinbacher. There's a good chance that David Savard will be a trade target for other teams during this offseason, which will clear up another spot.

The Canadiens will have to make some other moves to make room, but it feels like Barron as a right-handed defenseman is safe. The fans may not like to hear it, but the Canadiens likely won't invest long-term in Xhekaj, as they already have four left-handed defensemen in the top-six, Struble is a lefty as the seventh guy, and Hutson is another lefty that soon needs to get full-time run. Once David Savard leaves, the right side of the Canadiens defense will be Reinbacher, Mailloux, and Barron.