What Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Do With Their RFAs?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins
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Nick Robertson

At one point, Robertson was seen as a massive steal for the Maple Leafs. Whether he is still seen that way or not is irrelevant, because he still is. Anytime you can scoop up a potential star player in the second round, you've got to be happy.

Now, nearly five years after he was drafted, he is included in many mock trades and has struggled to to keep a consistent role with the Leafs. This has way more to do with social media and people being inpatient than it does with his actual development, which is on track.

Robertson has deal with some major injuries in key development years, but finally seemed to break out this season scoring 14 goals and 27 points through 56 games in a limited role that he belongs in the NHL.

Even if it’s only as a third line/middle-six secondary scorer, his shooting talent and motor alone make him an intriguing option on a nightly basis.  He's likely better than that though, since most of goal scoring was done in limited minutes without power-play usage.

Robertson scored at roughly the same 5v5 rate as 40 goal scorer William Nylander, so he's clearly a talented player.

He undoubtedly has more to give and with at least a couple years runway for development at only 22, he deserves a contract. I would assume it’s a short-term contract for one or two years given some legitimate questions regarding his health and exactly what his ceiling is.

A few comparable contracts could be Lukas Reichel, Morgan Frost, and Alexis Lafrenière. They all received two-year deals on their second contract ranging from $1.2 million and $2.33 million per season. Robertson likely comes in closer to Reichel’s $1.2 million as they both have played under 100 games with just over 30 points at this point through their careers. 

Timothy Liljegren

Liljegren had a similar career trajectory to Robertson. When he was drafted and shortly after, he was seen as a big steal but when he didn’t become a full-time NHL player after a few seasons, he started being cast aside by many fans and media.

However Liljegren, who just turned 25 a couple weeks ago, has been a bonafide NHLer for three seasons and grown into a key piece for the Leafs. He signed a two-year contract extension for $1.4 million per year and it is now set to expire this summer. 

Liljegren has steadily risen up the depth chart over the past three seasons going from a pure third pair defender to getting time on the top powerplay unit and averaging just under 20 minutes per game this season.

This season Liljegren spent time on all three pairings, in many different roles. Mostly he played on the third line, and he put up very solid numbers overall.

He should be re-signed but what is the price? That is the most important question.

Going through lists of comparable players, it ranges from $2 million to $4 million per year. If I had to guess, I would assume he lands somewhere between $2.5 million and $3.5 million when looking at comparable players. Alex Carrier and Dante Fabbro both signed for $2.5 million on a one year deal at 26 years old.

Will Borgen signed for $2.7 million for two years at 26 and Evan Bouchard for $3.9 million for two years at 23. All four are right-shot defenders at similar ages who log similar minutes averaging between 18-20 minutes per night. 

If the contract is for only a year or two expect it to be on the lower end of that. The Leafs could also try to get some nice cost certainty by gambling on a higher annual salary and locking him in long-term.