What to Expect From John Klingberg with the Toronto Maple Leafs

John Klingberg #3 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
John Klingberg #3 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a large chunk of their roster on the opening day of free agency, but they did make one significant addition to their blue line.  John Klingberg was signed to a one-year deal worth $4.15M, in effect replacing the just-departed Justin Holl.

Klingberg, who will turn 31 next month, signed a $7M (figures from capfriendly.com) one-year contract last year with Anaheim before a trade deadline deal sent him to the Minnesota Wild.  Previous to that, he spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Dallas Stars.  Although Klingberg’s production has slipped recently, the Toronto Maple Leafs will still look to him to add some offensive punch to the lineup.

Looking at the positives of this deal, Klingberg is a right hand shot, carries the puck well, can quarterback the powerplay, has strong offensive instincts (he achieved a high of 67 points in 2017-18) and should still have several good years of mileage left in him.

On the negative side, the Swedish blueliner has had trouble staying healthy for a full season.  Klingberg is also not known for his defensive prowess.  Some may balk at the Leafs paying him in excess of $4M, but considering the money being thrown around for other free agent defensemen, his contract may actually be a bargain.

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Just for reference, Justin Holl signed with the Detroit Red Wings for 3 years at $3.4M per year and Luke Schenn went to the Nashville Predators for 3 years at $2.75M per year.  Shayne Gostisbehere (a player with a very similar career stats and salary profile), signed with Detroit for $4.125M for one year.

If Klingberg cannot stay healthy enough to make a significant contribution or just doesn’t mesh well with his Toronto teammates, the Leafs have limited their risk to one season of salary.

Admittedly, Klingberg did not have a good year last season with the Anaheim Ducks.  But did anyone look good playing for that brutal squad, which may have struggled playing in the AHL?  Klingberg is likely salivating at the possibility of running a power play featuring Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Just as important, his defensive deficiencies may be covered up somewhat by the team structure Sheldon Keefe has put in place over the last few seasons.  Klingberg’s defense will likely be no worse than what we saw from Holl, but his offensive capabilities are miles ahead of what Holl provided.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition of John Klingberg is not likely to have a huge impact (positive or negative) on the team’s success.  On balance it seems to be a reasonable and necessary response to the departures of several other depth defenders.