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Let the offseason begin as Leafs re-sign Liljegren

Two years for Timmy

Philadelphia Flyers v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Timothy Liljegren #37 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the Scotiabank Arena on April 19, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed RFA defenseman Timothy Liljegren to a two-year contract worth $1.4 million annually. Liljegren is 23 years old (and will be all of next season) and has 74 career NHL games under his belt — mostly from this past season. Liljegren will be 25 when his contract expires as a RFA with arbitration rights.

In 61 games during the 2021-22 season, Liljegren posted a 56% shot share, 60% expected goals share, and a 58% actual goals share. He did all this mostly in bottom pair usage, with a relatively decent amount of top-four time. It should be noted that Liljegren predominantly did not play against top-six competition.

His most common defensive partners in the season were Rasmus Sandin, Mark Giordano, Morgan Rielly, and Jake Muzzin. Liljegren didn’t get very much defensive usage with the first three, but got some with Muzzin.

With TJ Brodie on the first pair, Liljegren will be in direct competition with Justin Holl for the second pairing spot on the team. In the playoffs, Liljegren was taken out for Holl after two games with a 40% shot share and 32% expected goals share. Holl did markedly better with a 48% shot share and 56% expected goals.

One of the big question marks for Liljegren going into the summer, and now for next season, will be how much responsibility will he be given. Sheldon Keefe doesn’t trust his third pair to do very much, but especially Liljegren in his first year. Sandin wasn’t asked to do very much defensively either. If a top-four role is the future for Liljegren he’s going to have a bigger task on his hands both defensively and in being trusted offensively. I believe he has the skills to do both, but it might take some growing pains.

Caveats aside, Liljegren had a good first season. He’s a promising young right-handed defender with a good set of tools, including his rush defending and shot. He can probably get by in the NHL with his level of lateral movement, but he needs to get better at tracking players in the defensive zone and sticking to them. He missed a lot of assignments and I think that’s what kept him away from playing with Rielly.

That salary means his QO will be $1,500,000 as he exits this deal as and arbitration-eligible RFA.