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Joel Edmundson gave the Maple Leafs’ blue line the pushback they needed

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Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
17 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Joel Edmundson from the Washington Capitals two days before the trade deadline. The deal included a 2024 third-round pick heading to the Capitals, along with a 2025 fifth-round pick. Washington retained $875,000 of Edmundson’s salary, allowing for Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving to create some financial flexibility ahead of the deadline.
It was an addition the Leafs desperately needed as the team was thin on defense and more specifically, shutdown defenders who weren’t afraid to push back. While Edmundson may have only dressed in nine regular season games, he was able to showcase his tool box and how he goes about his business to impact the game.
Don’t look to the scoresheet, Edmundson was all defense, all the time and was used mostly with Timothy Liljegren on the Leafs’ third pair. He also quickly became a catalyst on Toronto’s first penalty kill unit. He blocked 16 shots and delivered 21 hits in his nine-game stint during the regular season. It was quickly becoming evident there was a new attitude among the blue line and within the team. Adding Edmundson gave the Leafs some more ‘piss and vinegar’ that Treliving desperately was looking for.
The veteran defenseman also brought a ton of intangibles to Toronto. He was a Stanley Cup winner and someone with 75 games of postseason experience under his belt. At 6-foot-5 and over 220 pounds, Edmundson averaged 17:47 of ice time during the regular season, which propelled to 18:39 a night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The stakes got higher and so did Edmundson’s responsibilities.
During the first-round series against the Boston Bruins, Edmundson was a beast. He was tough as nails to battle in front of the net for positioning, he was once again playing an in-your-face style and did all he could to make it tough on the Bruins’ forwards. This hit on David Pastrnak was a perfect example of what Edmundson was bringing to the table for Toronto:
Edmundson was once again paired up with Liljegren during most of his playoff minutes. And while the pair did take some heat at times for some below-average play, if we dig a little deeper into the numbers, from all accounts it appears Liljegren was the problem. So much so, Liljegren was healthy scratched for Game 4 and veteran defenseman TJ Brodie was brought in as his replacement. As this chart presents, Edmundson’s Corsi For was at it’s lowest when he was paired with Liljegren, meaning the Bruins averaged more shots than the Maple Leafs anytime these two were on the ice together:
Defense PairingsCORSI % – per NaturalStatTrick.com
Edmundson & Rielly88.24
Edmundson & McCabe66.67
Edmundson & Brodie64.71
Edmundson & Benoit50.00
Edmundson & Lyubushkin47.62
Edmundson & Liljegren44.90
The pairing of Edmundson and Liljegren certainly had their moments but considering the coaching staff couldn’t trust Liljegren to play in all seven games and how the shot-attempt numbers stack up, perhaps if the finger is going to be pointed anywhere, it’s in Liljegren’s direction.

Edmundson’s Future a Topic of Discussion

Edmundson is currently a pending unrestricted free agent and could potentially be hitting the open market. There’s been some speculation of late that both sides have some mutual interest to get an extension completed. He’s turning 31 on June 28.
Treliving hired Craig Berube to be the Maple Leafs’ new head coach and he’s someone who Edmundson is very familiar with. The duo spent two years together in St Louis, which included a Stanley Cup-winning season in 2018-19. Edmundson was the Blues’ fourth-most utilized blueliner during their Cup run, which included some time on the penalty kill. He appeared in 22 playoff games during the championship season, laying an impressive 42 hits while blocking 36 shots. It’s obvious his game hasn’t really changed and it’s quite predictable what Edmundson is going to bring to the table, game in and game out.
This relationship between the coach and player should be something that helps with the contract negotiations as it’s a comfortable environment for Edmundson to come back to. From all accounts, the two had a strong relationship on and off the ice as Berube is known as one of the best communicators in hockey.
For now, no contract extension appears imminent. Treliving holds $18.5 million in projected cap space to work with at the moment, it’s likely he may prioritize re-signing Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi first, then turn his attention to his blue line and goaltending depth.
Toronto should whole heartedly consider re-signing Edmundson. He brought a toughness and a heaviness to his game which the Maple Leafs desperately needed and could use more of moving forward with their new identity. Having some familiarity with Berube behind the bench should bode well for comfort level on either side, but ultimately it’s going to come down to dollars andc cents for Maple Leafs’ management.

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