The Maple Leafs need Timothy Liljegren to reach his potential this season
Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
By Shane Seney2 months ago
Timothy Liljegren keeps you wanting more. You can see it in his smart plays with the puck, he has an impressive hockey IQ and his sense for the game is off the charts. He shows you with his ability to move the puck and get shots on net that he’s offensive minded enough to hit the score sheet on a regular basis. And then there’s the physical side of the game. Every so often Liljegren delivers a heavy blow and it makes you wonder why he doesn’t play with a consistent nasty streak game in and game out.
It’s time for it all to come together for the former first-round pick as this needs to be the season Liljegren reaches his potential and showcases to the organization where his ceiling might be.
Let’s start with last season. Liljegren put up 18 points in 67 games and was very underwhelming at times. Remember when he couldn’t pass the puck properly for a few games there in the middle of the season? Pucks kept sliding off his stick and it looked like his hands were suffering. Thankfully that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore as he’s been able to get past these ‘yips’.
Liljegren’s 18 points were nothing to write home about, however, he did finish his year with a great showing at the World Championships with Team Sweden. I was hopeful he’d be able to build off this experience and bring this confident side of his game to the Maple Leafs this year and from all accounts, it appears he has.
Maple Leafs need a consistent Liljegren
With John Klingberg already banged up and missing action and with Conor Timmins hitting the injured reserve for at least a couple of months after embracing his inner Bobby Orr early in preseason, the Leafs need Liljegren to lean on.
He’s going to start the year with Mark Giordano on the third pair, however there’s a very good chance we see him creep up into the top four at certain parts this season. Klingberg’s defensive woes have been well documented these past few seasons and it could become an issue for the Maple Leafs and is something to keep an eye on to start the year.
Add in the fact Timmins isn’t an option for awhile, there’s no doubt the Leafs are thin for right-handed defencemen. Topi Niemela showed nothing in preseason and isn’t close to being an NHL regular. Simon Benoit and Mikko Kokkonen are left-handed options, but neither have proved themselves as of yet, however could be getting a shot as the Leafs’ seventh defenceman with Timmins out.
Maple Leafs’ Blueliner Needs a New Deal
Liljegren is a pending restricted free agent and will be hopeful to land a long-term extension with the Leafs. Brad Treliving should be interested in re-signing the Swedish defencemen and it will be interesting to see how much term Toronto’s GM is willing to offer.
With having so many top-heavy contracts on the books, it’s these types of contracts where you re-signing depth pieces where you can’t miss and fumble the bag. Treliving needs to hammer down Liljegren at a reasonable number and he’d be smart to go to as many as five seasons. ‘Lilly’ has shown he’s a great skater with a lot of tools and the best is yet to come for #37 of the Maple Leafs.
Treliving is projected to have just over $33 million to work with next summer, however Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, William Nylander, John Klingberg, Ilya Samsonov, Sam Lafferty and TJ Brodie will all need new deals. There won’t be enough money to go around and all of the players listed here won’t be back. To me, Treliving should be putting the importance of keeping Liljegren in the cards ahead of Brodie for sure and likely Klingberg too.
While he’s not likely going to see much time on the power play, Liljegren needs to be a consistent force on the penalty kill. He needs to play physical, with an edge and sustain a high pace of play. The tools are all there and you can see he’s starting to scratch the surface, but there’s little doubt that if the Maple Leafs want to become the league’s best, they need him to be a difference maker from the back end all season long.
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