Projecting which restricted free agents will return to the Canadiens in 2024-25

The Montreal Canadiens have quite a few restricted free agents in the system, so who is bound to return next season and even potentially spend time with the big club?
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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Arber Xhekaj has put together an encouraging sample size

Last season, we saw Arber Xhekaj appear in 51 games and put up 13 points and five goals across 15:16 of average total ice time. Xhekaj’s physical game glowed on third-pairing minutes, as he logged 159 hits and 46 blocks. 

He saw nearly 40 minutes on the power play and helped the Canadiens land a 16.7 shooting percentage when he was on the ice. His 5-on-5 statistics weren’t as encouraging, with a Corsi For of just 47.1 percent despite seeing 58.4 percent of all of his starts occur in the offensive zone. His on-ice save percentage was a stellar 92.3, but he also saw opponents score 30 goals when he was on the ice, compared to just 24 goals for. 

This season, Xhekaj has 10 points in 44 contests, and he’s logging nearly 16 minutes per game. He’s developing a better knack for invading scoring lanes, with 49 blocks, and Xhekaj is keeping up his physical play with 124 hits. 

His Corsi For has improved to 48.8 percent despite a lower offensive zone starting percentage, which is currently at 55.8 percent. His on-ice save percentage is slightly better than it was last season, and he’s also been on the ice at 5-on-5 for 32 goals compared to just 24 against. 

For the most part, Xhekaj’s basic and advanced numbers have improved to the point that they indicate a better overall game, which will easily warrant an extension for the 23-year-old this summer.