Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin are Restricted Free Agents this summer, which means the Toronto Maple Leafs are vulnerable to an offer-sheet.
If I’m a general manager of any team in the NHL, I would offer-sheet Sandin and Liljegren in a heartbeat. That’s why Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs front office need to sign both of these players immediately before it happens.
Although it feels like both players have been in the Leafs system forever, they’re only 22 and 23-years-old respectively. Sure, we’ve seen players like Cale Makar and Adam Fox dominate the NHL at a similar age, but most defenseman take years of development and maturing before they’re top-four players.
Sandin and Liljegren don’t rack up the scoresheet like Fox and Makar, which is why they’re not talked about in the same breath. However, they have all the attributes to become the best two defenseman on the Leafs next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Pay Sandin & Liljegren Immediately
Liljegren is the most interesting case because, once upon a time, he was projected to become the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. However, an illness scared teams away and the Leafs hit the jackpot by selecting him 17th overall.
Because it’s seemingly taken him five years to crack the everyday NHL line-up, fans have been harsh on him, but now that he’s here, they should be ecstatic. When you look deep into the analytics, his game is incredible.
His team rarely gives up huge scoring chances when he’s on the ice, and most importantly the team seems to score at a higher-rate when he’s playing. Basically, every time that Liljegren plays, the Leafs have a better chance at scoring goals and not allowing them, which is literally the greatest thing anyone can hope for.
Not only that, but he’s a right-handed shooting defenseman, which is a huge help to Toronto’s defensive group, as T.J. Brodie and Liljegren can be a solid top-four on the right-side.
Sandin’s stats aren’t as good as Liljegren’s, but he’s a defenseman you want on your roster as well.
Even though he’s 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, he plays like he’s much bigger. He’s not afraid to hit or get into the corners, and his skating is fantastic. If Sandin can get his offensive game to the level he was at during his junior career, we could be talking about him and Liljegren as two of the best mid-round picks in franchise history.
Since both of these players are unsigned, teams will have the chance to offer-sheet them and they’d be stupid not to.
They’re going to turn into elite defenseman sooner than later and their cap-hit isn’t going to be much higher than $2M each. With Toronto stuck to the salary cap, they need to sign both players before they’re eligible to become Restricted Free Agents.
Signing Jack Campbell or clearing space for next year shouldn’t be Kyle Dubas’ number-one priority. It should be to lock both of these defenseman up for a minimum of three years at a number that is salary-cap friendly.
Liljegren and Sandin are a huge piece to this team and they better get signed before a team swoops in and offer-sheet’s them, because it’s happened before and it could definitely happen again.