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Maple Leafs sign four players to ELCs

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Two draft picks and two free agents are joining the Leafs on NHL contracts.

Credit: Thomas Skrlj

Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren, signed today by the Toronto Maple Leafs, are both draft picks. Igor Ozhiganov and Pär Lindholm, also signed, are free agents, both rumoured to have been on the Leafs radar.

Pierre Engvall

Engvall is already wearing the blue and white and contributing in a big way on the Marlies. Engvall was a seventh round pick of the Leafs in 2014, and his rights expire at the end of this month just after he turns 22. He is a left-shooting winger who is a towering 6’4”, but he skates well and plays more of a finesse game than you might expect, given that height.

He played his way up the lineup in the SHL this year, his debut in the top league in Sweden, from a fourth line role to a trusted top line role by playoff time. He has shown the same versatility on the Marlies, filling in for Andreas Johnsson on the top line, and then dropping down to a grittier line with Frederik Gauthier and Mason Marchment.

He has almost exactly the same points from both of those roles. He has four goals and four assists in nine regular season games, and three goals and four assists in nine playoff games. You can see the latest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs on the ice on Saturday as the Marlies take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the Conference Finals.

This will be a two-year ELC.

Jesper Lindgren

Lindgren was drafted in the fourth round by the Leafs in 2015, and this signing is a bit of a surprise. His rights don’t expire until next summer, and he is under contract to HPK in the Finnish Liiga for next year. We don’t know yet if that plan is for that to change.

Lindgren turns 21 in two days (happy birthday!) and he is an average sized right-shooting defender with an offensive focus. He plays the point on the power play very well, but struggles to drive play on a Finnish team that is not the best at that by any means.

He was over with the Marlies on a PTO, but he was released a few weeks ago to go back home to train.

This should be a three-year ELC.

Pär Lindholm

We told you what we know about Lindholm when the rumour dropped the Leafs were interested in him.

If this signing comes to pass, the Leafs will acquire a centre, their weakest position, who has just finished his best-ever professional season with 18 goals and 29 assists in 49 regular-season games. He also had 11 points in 16 playoff games.

Lindholm began to be noticed in 2016-2017 by the Swedish National team, and he played eight games that season in international competition. This year, he played 11 games, including four Olympic games where he had one goal.

He is under contract to Skellefteå next season, but those deals often have NHL out-clauses. He has played his entire career for that club, barring a trip through the Allsvenskan and Division 1 for three years as he went from junior to the senior team. His professional career has not been a perfect straight line, and he is definitely a late-bloomer.

UPDATE: While Elite Prospects lists him as under contract to Skellefteå, their website does not have him on the roster, and he’s listed in one spot as no longer active. I think they know something for sure we don’t yet.

He is listed at 5’11” and 187 lbs, and he shoots left. [We aren’t sure about this as two sources, one the Swedish National team roster, lists him as taller and heavier. It may be a typo 90/190 instead of 80/180 in metric measure.]

While his last two seasons have been good, and he has absolutely held down the top job on one of the best teams in Sweden — they lost in the final to the champion Växjö — he also plays with Oscar Möller, one of the best scorers in the SHL, and Joakim Lindström a veteran with NHL and KHL experience. That helps the points totals. Lindström played 19 games in Toronto after coming over as part of the Olli Jokinen trade.

Igor Ozhiganov

Ozhiganov is a 25-year-old Russian, right-shooting defender, who has spent a lot of time not playing for CSKA in the KHL. The team is a top-ranked team and they went all the way to the final this year, losing to Ak Bars Kazan.

Ozhiganov has been a surplus player all season, and he’s been used primarily as a fourth-unit defender, playing defensive minutes or running out the clock in blowouts. He saw action mostly against lesser teams, and when the playoffs game, he saw mostly the view from up in the stands.

You will hear that CSKA played former Leafs defender Alexei Marchenko ahead of him, and that’s true, but not the whole story.

He does not seem to be a player who produces personal offence. How he plays defensively is difficult to assess from afar. The KHL does not breakdown time on ice by game state, and there is no shot data for that league. All that can be used to assess Ozhiganov’s play is his personal shot rate, his plus/minus or his points.

By those measures... well, he has a great plus/minus considering his usage. We’ll know when training camp comes, what we have here.

Both older players are on one-year deals, but while Leafs PR refers to them as ELCs, I think they are regular contracts and can exceed the ELC limitations.

The correct answer on this is because they are European and signing from outside North America, they have to have one-year ELCs at their age. Canadian or American players signing from Europe at that age do not.