The Toronto Maple Leafs signed John Klingberg in the off-season for one year and a $4 million dollar cap hit.
I am of the opinion that that isn’t really too big of a deal, and that as long as you add good players, balance is overrated. Sure, an NHL team probably does need to be more physical than the Leafs currently are, but a good player is always preferable to a good fit.
The question is if John Klingberg is a good player any more. To be sure, he used to be. He is now 31 and coming off the worst year of his career in a sport where players his age don’t tend to bounce back.
Toronto Maple Leafs: John Klingberg’s Special Teams Play Doesn’t Matter
There was news this week that the Leafs are going to use Klingberg on their top power-play unit along with, one assumes, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (and who knows if they stack the first unit or augment the second unit with Tavares and Nylander).
Klingberg is an excellent offensive defenseman and he has a great shot. He could be an excellent addition to the power-play, no doubt.
But here is the thing – the guy he is replacing (Rielly) just quarter-backed the 2nd best power play in the NHL. Even if Klingberg makes them 1st, it won’t help the team be better if he doesn’t win his minutes 5v5 where 80% of the game occurs.
Therefore it doesn’t matter how good Klingberg is on the power-play. It only matters how good he is at 5v5 where he’s going to start in the top-four.
You can’t consistently lose your second-pairings minutes and still be a top team – they just play too many minutes.
If, when Klingberg plays, the Toronto Maple Leafs are above 50% Expected Goals, and if they’re outshooting, outchancing and outpossessing the opposition when he plays, then he will be a fine addition to the team.
But the power-play doesn’t even enter into it. If the Leafs lose Klingberg’s minutes at 5v5, there is nothing he can do on the power-play to make up for it.
I would not have signed him, especially when it means keeping Timothy Liljegren on the 3rd pairing and Topi Niemela in the AHL. However, he is a big guy who has a lot of talent, and if playing with great linemates can elevate his game to the point where the team is winning his minutes every night and he improves the power-play, he might actually be worth the money.
I just wouldn’t bet on it.