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The Maple Leafs should consider putting Timothy Liljegren on the trade market
By Shane Seney1 month ago
It’s hard to say what kind of direction Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving will take ahead of the March 8 trade deadline. Regardless, if it’s ‘buying’ multiple upgrades for this season or making a calculated move to improve the future of the Leafs, defenseman Timothy Liljegren needs to be considered as an internal trade candidate.
Liljegren, a former first-round pick, has been very inconsistent this season. He suffered an ankle injury early on and hasn’t been able to find his game ever since. Liljegren has just two goals and nine points in 29 appearances, playing 19:10 a game, which ranks him fifth among Leafs defencemen. The biggest knock on the Swedish blueliner is his hockey sense, and ability to read the play. He’s also a bit of a ‘tweener’ as he’s not overly physical or aggressive enough offensively. Treliving needs to take a look at how to upgrade his blueline and it could start with moving on from Liljegren.
Still Some Trade Value for Onlooking Teams
As far as being a trade asset, Liljegren does hold some value. Significant? No, but there’s going to be some interested teams if Treliving makes him available. His contract isn’t a problem, as he’s set to make $1.4 million in 2023-24, and is a restricted free agent at season’s end. At 24 years old, there will be teams willing to give him a look and perhaps a change of scenery could do wonders for his production.
Treliving hasn’t been shy with his feelings toward the Maple Leafs’ blue line as he’s mentioned throughout the year that it’s an area of concern and one where he’d like to add some talent. What he hasn’t said is who he’d like to upgrade but considering Liljegren’s play of late, look no further.
An ideal situation would be to move on from Liljegren and find a defenceman who can carve a definitive role on the team. Be it as an above-average penalty killer and someone who plays a rugged/tough game, mucking it up in the dirty areas of the ice, or someone who is offensive-minded and a rover type, who can help the Leafs push the pace and jump in on the rush. Liljegren will show flashes of brilliance but then seems to fan on passes on a regular basis, make complete gaffes with the puck, or take an untimely penalty to halt the momentum.
This Season Was Supposed to Be ‘The Year’
Toronto has been patient with their 2017 first rounder and this season it appeared to be ‘the year’ for Liljegren to develop into a staple among the Leafs’ top four, but that hasn’t been the case at all. Depth signing Simon Benoit has leapfrogged the Swedish blueline on the team’s depth chart and is now seeing more significant minutes when the games matter most. Meanwhile, Liljegren’s had a couple of games recently where he’s seen his ice-time drop dramatically.
The reason is, Benoit is reliable and gives the same effort, game in and game out. Head coach Sheldon Keefe knows what Benoit’s going to bring to the table with his physical/simple game and limits the major mistakes that can cost the team a win. Liljegren’s consistency or role for that matter, is nowhere to be found and that’s very worrisome for a former first-rounder who has 170 games with the franchise. Keefe went public with his frustration recently after a loss to the Canucks and it certainly raised some eyebrows:
The trust just isn’t there from the coaching staff and it’s time for Treliving to do something about it. Toronto has multiple holes to fill and could go in a couple of different directions in a trade. Package Liljegren and their first-rounder in ’24 and perhaps they could get back a more dynamic defenceman who is surely top-four material and someone under team control for a couple of more seasons. There’s zero chance Treliving moves the first-rounder without getting back some term. Or, Liljegren gets moved for some forward depth, perhaps a middle-six forward who is versatile to move up and down the lineup. Perhaps even a pending free agent with potential to re-sign? Someone like Sean Monahan in Montreal?
This trade deadline is going to be very interesting to follow in Toronto as it’s Treliving’s first one as Leafs GM. The team has glaring holes and some underachievers, but the last thing he’ll want to do is make a move to create another area of concern. However, just because the Maple Leafs need to upgrade their defence, doesn’t mean all their defencemen are untouchable. Liljegren shouldn’t be, that’s for sure.
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