After making a name for himself at training camp, Arber Xhekaj isn’t going back to junior empty-handed. The Montreal Canadiens have signed the young defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal carries an average annual value of $828K, including signing bonuses in all three seasons. Though he’ll now be under an NHL contract, Xhekaj is on his way back to the OHL to join the Kitchener Rangers for the upcoming season.
If you are looking for feel-good hockey stories, look no further than Xhekaj. The 20-year-old was not only passed over in the NHL draft multiple times but was also not even selected in the OHL draft, despite hailing from Hamilton, Ontario. He received a tryout with the Kitchener Rangers after dominating in the GOJHL and made the team in 2018. His first year of major junior resulted in just three points in 59 games, but Xhekaj is nothing if not adaptive. He scored six goals and 17 points in his sophomore season for the Rangers and was one of the team’s most important defensemen.
Now, after being invited to NHL training camp and earning an entry-level deal, he’s proved his doubters wrong once again. The 6’3″ 204-lbs defenseman is part of the Montreal organization and well on his way to playing at the professional level. He’ll return to Kitchener this season for his overage year, giving the Rangers a bit of a roster crunch. They’ll take it though, as Xhekaj should be an imposing figure on the blueline once again as things get back to normal in the junior league.