Timothy Liljegren earns a two-year contract extension, as he looks to continue his path towards becoming a top-four defenceman for the Maple Leafs.
Liljegren was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, so the deal gives the Leafs one less matter to concern themselves with. The extension is also well-earned, with this past season representing a breakout campaign for the blue-liner.
After appearing in just 13 NHL games during the two previous regular seasons combined, the 23-year-old had a career-high 61 appearances in 2021-22. He scored 23 points (five goals and 18 assists), while recording the third-best plus/minus rating among all Leafs defencemen, at +15.
Liljegren also registered 87 hits and 60 blocks, while averaging 16:24 of ice time per contest. As a result of his production, he finished 11th in voting for the Calder Memorial trophy.
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Selected 17th overall in the 2017 draft, Liljegren’s progress was always anticipated by the Leafs. Certainly he has the talent you look for in a blue-liner, exemplified by his excellent skating ability, supreme confidence when in possession of the puck and a high hockey IQ which often results in him making the right pass.
Liljegren really started to come into his own towards the end of the season. He still has plenty to learn though, and he was a healthy scratch after appearing in the Leafs’ first two playoff games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In this respect, for all his talent and upside, the Kristianstad, Sweden native needs to improve his defensive play, particularly coverage in his own zone. However, this doesn’t change the expectation within the organization that he will eventually become a regular top-four option on the blue line.
As a result of the extension, Liljegren becomes the sixth defenceman under contract for the Leafs in 2022-23. As per CapFriendly.com, the other five players are Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Justin Holl and Mark Giordano.
The key defenceman who still needs signing, is pending restricted free agent Rasmus Sundin. There is also the important matter of trying to re-sign goaltender Jack Campbell; to lose him would be a huge blow for the Leafs.
What is you opinion of how Liljegren played for the Leafs this past season? How confident are you that he will eventually become a regular top-four option on the blue line? Let us know in the comments section below.