Is the Future of Timothy Liljegren on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Question?

Timothy Liljegren is headed into the summer as a restricted free agent, but the team may end up moving on from their once top defensive prospect.
Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers
Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

Heading into the 2024 summer the Toronto Maple Leafs have eight restricted free agents with all but Nicholas Robertson being eligible for arbitration.

There is a likely situation that the Toronto Maple Leafs move on from seven of those other players (Keith Petruzzelli, Max Lajoie, Max Ellis and Noah Gregor), which leaves Alex Steeves, Connor Dewar and most notably Timothy Liljegren with potential returns.

Heading into his 2016-17 draft season some reports had Lilegren as potentially the best defender of the draft, ranked higher than the likes of Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen.

Unfortunately, the Swedish defenseman ended up with mononucleosis which caused him to miss the first two months of the season and hurt his draft stock.

Is the Future of Timothy Liljegren on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Question?

Liljegren would end up skating with six different Swedish teams and got into 59 games, however it was notable that the sickness he sustained at the beginning of the season had caused a drop in his game and as such he slid in the draft.

It looked like a steal when the Maple Leafs were able to get a defenseman that had drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson with the 17th overall pick.

After being drafted in 2017, the native of Kristianstad, Sweden came over to North America immediately to play with the Marlies. Over the next four seasons Liljegren developed through the system which included winning an AHL Calder Cup Championship in 2018 where he skated in 20 playoff games.

During the two COVID seasons, he had two cups of coffee combining for 13 HL games before becoming a regular in 2021-22.

Liljegren has now finished his third season where he was a mainstay on the roster, but has teased the club with potentially being a 20-minute a night puck moving defenseman to being a healthy scratch. This past season he saw his ice-time climb almost two minutes to an average of 19:40 per game and even played 21:00 or more minutes on 20 different occasions with a high of 24:27 on February 15.

Liljegren missed a substantial part of the season and played in just 55-game due to an ankle injury caused by a dirty play by Brad Marchand that went unpenalized.

He was given much more responsibility and saw time on every pairing, including a stint as the club's top guy when Morgan Rielly was briefly injured.

His free agency now comes after a two-year contract that carried a cap hit of $1.4 Million per season and now at 25-years old the right handed shot defenseman should be coming into his prime. The problem is the team still doesn't know what they have; Do they have a middle pairing defender worth a long term contract or a bottom pairing replacement level player?

The Athletic's Josh Kloke reported that there is not much dialogue going on at this time between the team and player; and my speculation is the team is waiting to see what they can do in free agency before the commit to a plan with Liljegren.


No matter what the Leafs do with the rest of their blue-line, it's hard to imagine them moving on from a puck-moving, right-handed defenseman who has been successful in the NHL and is just 25. Especially when you consider they almost certainly can sign him to a team-friendly deal.