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Timothy Liljegren never wanted to leave the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
20 days ago
When reports came in yesterday that Timothy Liljegren was going to sign a two-year extension with the Leafs, many fans were left puzzled by the team’s decision to re-up the defenceman.
That is because, in the eyes of some, his development has stalled, he was not a playoff regular, and there were instances where he struggled in his own end. As a result of all of this, some fans felt that the right course of action was for the Leafs to not tender him a qualifying offer and use the money they would have spent on him to bring in a different right-shot defenceman.
Instead, the Leafs chose to continue to have faith in Liljegren as they likely felt that he was finally starting to turn a corner into becoming a permanent top-four defenceman. There were flashes this past season where it looked like that was going to become a reality before a high-ankle sprain halted that momentum and it took him some time to get it back. By committing him to a two-year contract with a $3M AAV, the Leafs are making a smart bet in entrusting the 25-year-old to blossom into the blueliner they hoped he would become when they drafted him 17th overall in 2017.
And in return, Liljegren feels pleased to have gotten a deal done that allows him to remain a Leaf for the foreseeable future.
“I feel good,” he said. “Toronto was always the place I wanted to be, and I’m happy we got it done.”
Regardless of how you feel about him as a player, it is hard to deny that maintaining some stability in areas outside the core four is important for the continued growth of the team. While the easy thing is to just constantly shuffle the deck in hopes of landing the perfect combination, it is hard to maintain success when there is so much instability in all other aspects outside of the main guys.
Liljegren is far from perfect, but he is the kind of defender that is incredibly valuable: a right shot. Players like him don’t grow on trees and the fact that not only is he good enough to be an NHL regular but has the makings to be a top-four blueliner that could soon be a reality is one the Leafs should not be so quick to give up on.
Now that he has secured a two-year extension, it is up to Liljegren to reward the Leafs for their continued belief in him by fully realizing his potential. There will be plenty of detractors who think he should not be given that chance and that is fine, but it will sure be satisfying to see him silence his critics in a big way next season and beyond.

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