Toronto Maple Leafs Need Timothy Liljegren On Team Friendly Deal

Toronto Maple Leafs Need Timothy Liljegren on team friendly deal
Toronto Maple Leafs Need Timothy Liljegren on team friendly deal / Zac BonDurant/GettyImages

It's been a month since the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated in the first round of the NHL Playoffs, and since then, all Leafs News has been dominated with mind-numbing Mitch Marner trade speculation.

While the allure of fantasy mock trades is undeniable, it's important to remember that the Toronto Maple Leafs organization has not shown any inclination to part ways with their esteemed 27-year-old playmaker, Mitch Marner.

Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan's comment that the front office will 'consider every option' is a standard response in his position, offering no concrete indication of a trade.

Whether the Maple Leafs want to trade Marner or not, it wastes time to speculate about possible moves when they have more significant priorities.

As the Maple Leafs entered the 2024 postseason, their defensive unit was notably the weakest among all playoff teams. Now, with most of those contracts expired, the team's focus should naturally shift to re-signing restricted free agent Timothy Liljegren, the only player from the five expired contracts on the blueline who is worth retaining.

Liljegren was among the few bright spots on the Maple Leafs blueline this year. He tied his career high in points and ranked among the top 30 percent of defensemen in wins above replacement for the third straight, but he struggled in the playoffs, which should give the Maple Leafs the freedom to lock Liljegren down on a team-friendly deal.

Toronto Maple Leafs Need Timothy Liljegren On Team Friendly Deal

Despite his regular season achievements, Liljegren's playoff performance has been a point of concern.

Over the past three years, he has only managed to post an expected goal percentage above 50 percent once in 13 games.

His on-ice shot attempt, shot-on-goal, scoring chance, and high-danger chance percentages have all been at 45 percent or lower (via NaturalStatTrick). These numbers, while not ideal, underscore the importance of Liljegren's upcoming contract negotiations and the potential impact on the Maple Leafs' defensive strategy.

These playoff numbers are horrendous, but we have to remember that Liljegren is only 25 years old and has not been put in a position to succeed in the playoffs, having to play with the statue Joel Edmundson against the Bruins and Mark Giordano in the two years prior.

While these 13 games don't define Liljegren's career, the Maple Leafs will be able to use this information in negotiations to lower the price to get a good deal on a player who is still developing.

Now, I am not qualified to speculate on what a team-friendly deal between Liljegren and the Maple Leafs would look like, but I see his numbers as somewhat comparable to Gustav Forsling of the Florida Panthers, who has been making 2.6 million dollars over the last three years.

Forsling is now 27 years old and just signed another extension worth 5.7 million dollars per year, but he was 25 and a restricted free agent when he signed that 2.6 million-dollar extension, just like Liljegren. The two had very similar production when you compare Forsling's 2020-2021 season to Liljegren's season this past year.

Suppose the Leafs can sign Liljegren for this 2.6 million dollar or less. In that case, they will be getting a great deal on a player who ranks fourth in expected goal percentage and goal percentage while on the ice among Leafs defencemen who have played at least one season's worth of games over the last three years.


This move would leave the Leafs with 16 million in cap space to sign two defensemen (via CapFriendly), Nick Robertson and Connor Dewar and a goalie to work with Joseph Woll; spending any more than this on Liljegren will make it difficult for the Maple Leafs to address the rest of the issues with their roster adequately.