The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft with the 17th overall pick. His development went slower than some would have liked, but the wait has been worth it.
The Toronto Maple Leafs now have a solid young defenseman who has played regularly in the NHL for two seasons, and who has dominated the sheltered third-pairing minutes he has been assigned.
Liljegren helped Keefe and the Toronto Marlies win the AHL’s Calder Cup in 2018. He’d love to help the Leafs win a championship, too.
He is ready to move up the lineup and assume more responsibility after sitting out for most of the last two season’s playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs: It’s Timothy Liljegren’s Time to Shine
Liljegren’s first full NHL season was the 2021-22 season. He registered five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in 61 games. His average ice time was 16:24, and he showed some of his physical side with 87 hits. Last season, Liljegren recorded six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 67 games. His ice time improved to 17:55. He posted 93 blocked shots and 107 hits.
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
As Liljegren continues to improve his game, I think we’ll see him get many opportunities to play in the Leafs top two with Morgan Reilly. His ice time will probably be over 18 minutes this season. Liljegren has the tools to take that next step.
Hopefully, this is the season when he does. The 2023-24 season is a contract year for Liljegren. He will be a restricted free agent (RFA) after this season. Perform well, and he’ll receive a nice raise in his salary.
The Leafs defense has three pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) who could all be gone next season. Those UFA’s are T.J. Brodie ($5 million), Mark Giordano ($800,000), and John Klingberg ($4.1 million).
Liljegren is making $1.4 million this season but could get a nice chunk of the money leaving via free agency. If Liljegren proves to be a reliable top-four or even top-two defenseman this season, he could get rewarded with his first long-term contract.
(Salary cap info from capfriendly.com)
His first contract was his entry-level contract (ELC), which carried a salary cap hit of $863,333 per season. His next contract is the two-year $1.4 million cap hit per season deal he is on now. Depending on how well he plays this season, his next contract could be in the neighborhood of five years at $4 million a season.
His play on the ice will determine how lucrative his next contract will be, but I expect to see Liljegren prove to the Leafs and everyone else that he is capable of being a top-two defenseman in the NHL for years to come.