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Eric Engels doesn’t expect the Habs to trade Arber Xhekaj

Since Arber Xhekaj arrived in Laval, he’s been the talk of the town.

Whether it’s taking a while to get back to being the defenseman he can be, seeing the Habs players not forget him, or seeing Jayden Struble steal his chair, the Sheriff’s name has been in the news, despite himself.

Xhekaj, who is beloved by Canadiens fans, will have to find a way to return to Montreal. And ideally, it would be as a guy who can – eventually – play 20 minutes a game.

Will he be back in Montreal in the short term? We don’t know. After all, the Habs didn’t give a timetable when it came time to send him back down to work on his defensive game.

And the imminent return of a healthy Jordan Harris to Montreal won’t help Xhekaj ease his way back into the Flanelle line-up, we agree.

But the fact remains, as Eric Engels put it in a recent paper, that the chances of him spending the rest of the season in Laval are slim. He’s likely to be recalled to Montreal down the road.

I’d be surprised if he and Logan Mailloux played all their remaining games this season in Laval, let’s say. I think things are going to shake up in Montreal… and that could involve a transaction involving David Savard, for example.

But we can/should also ask ourselves long-term questions about WiFi.

And according to Engels, it would be surprising if the Habs decided to trade Xhekaj when the time comes, in the medium to long term, to choose the pillars of the Habs’ blue line. The journalist says he has a feeling that it won’t be #72 who will be sacrificed in the end.

You’d think Engels would know what he’s talking about, as he speaks to people in the industry. Obviously, things can change, but here’s what he thinks in December 2023.

So it was really to take Xhekaj to the next level that the Canadiens decided to send him to Laval – and not as a punishment. It’s like taking one step back to take (at least) two steps forward.

Let’s not forget that his offensive instinct, combined with his other great qualities (strength and size, in particular), make him a unique model throughout the NHL.

It’s understandable that the Habs don’t want to trade him too quickly. That said, we shouldn’t forget that sometimes all it takes is one offer to change everything…

In gusts

– Ouch.

– Of note.

– It’s happening, but without the jerseys during the warm-up.

– Suspension at CMJ.

– Next year, he’ll be Quentin Miller’s assistant, obviously.

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