#4. Timothy Liljegren
Stats with the Leafs:
Games Played: 67
Games Played: 5
Signed through 2023-24 at $1.4M AAV.
Liljegren was the only Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman to rank in both the top-five for hits and blocked shots on the team in 2022-23. He also did it with the least amount of ice time out of any of the regular Leaf defenders (Conor Timmins and Erik Gustafsson, now with the New York Rangers, are discluded from this conversation).
So, the potential is definitely there for Liljegren to be more than what Keefe sees in the young Swede thus far in his career. Liljegren consistently puts up high possession and Corsi numbers. He has one year left on his current deal, which is a bargain for the team, before he becomes a restricted free agent.
When the games had more significance, Keefe chose not to dress arguably his best all-around defenseman in Liljegren. It is for sure more frustrating for Liljegren than it is for Leafs fans to witness the head coach not utilizing an asset that could help the team in its’ most deficient area. But it is truly maddening.
In the five games that Liljegren got the green light in the playoffs, he only averaged 15 minutes off the bench. He shoots from the coveted right side and when he does let one fly, it’s heavy.
Liljegren doesn’t shy away from contact and is an effective penalty killer. He’s got some grit in him and the only thing holding him back from a higher grade is visibility. Put this guy on the number one pairing with Rielly, Keefe. If you do, he will be an ‘A’ student.