Should the Maple Leafs circle back on John Klingberg?

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
14 days ago
When John Klingberg signed a one-year $4.5-million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last July, he was supposed to help quarterback their power play, provide some depth on defence and help contribute to some secondary scoring. After just 14 games, a hip injury derailed his season and nothing was accomplished.
Klingberg underwent bilateral hip surgery at the end of last December and from all accounts the surgery was successful. It was the same surgery Patrick Kane of the Detroit Red Wings had done and the recovery time is generally 5-6 months. This means, there’s certainly a chance Klingberg could be back to fully healthy and ready for action come training camp in September.
Should the Maple Leafs consider a reunion of sorts?
Klingberg signed for $4.5 million last summer and at the time, it felt like a good signing for Treliving and the Leafs. Risky, but because it was short-term, it was worth the risk. Obviously, nothing went as expected and a season-ending injury occurred, however, Klingberg is going to be motivated to prove himself once again and is now in line for another one-year ‘prove-yourself’ contract. Depending on the cap hit, Treliving should consider it.
The Maple Leafs are thin on defence and they are paper thin on the right side. Timothy Liljegren’s history is foggy as he’s been named as a prime trade candidate this summer, an offseason where he’s a pending restricted free agent in need of a contract. Meanwhile, Ilya Lyubushkin is a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1 and isn’t a lock to be returning to Toronto. Lastly, Conor Timmins is under contract but as we’ve seen from his time as a Leaf, it’s hard to rely on him for much consistency. Perhaps a new coach can unleash the untapped potential.
Treliving has $18.5 million in projected cap space at the moment and has some major decisions on his plate. Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi appear to be priority one and two heading into the offseason as it appears everyone has mutual interest in getting a deal done, the only thing is the dollars need to make sense. If both forwards re-up, that’s likely $10 million combined. With limited resources, unless a major trade creates some more financial flexibility, Treliving could have his hands tied slightly thanks to hardly any cap space. And regardless of how much cap space the Leafs GM can create, he’ll need to sprinkle in some league minimum and low-risk high-reward contracts. Klingberg is right up this alley.
When the 6-foot-3 defenceman is on, he’s one of the better offensive d-men in the league. He creates offence at even strength and contributes on the power-play as he’s got a great shot and can think the game at the same level as world-class offensive players like an Auston Matthews or William Nylander. Klingberg’s not going to give you much for physicality and there are going to be times when he makes a horrible read and reminds Leafs fans of Justin Holl, however if you put him in a situation to succeed and don’t try to play him among a top-four, there’s a much better chance he could be effective.
The Swedish blueliner shouldn’t be among the Leafs’ top-four next season, there’s no chance. However, if Treliving and Klingberg’s camp can get a deal done for pennies on the dollar, and just a one-year term, then of course the Maple Leafs GM should consider it. Who doesn’t love a redemption tour?
Klingberg could help the Maple Leafs power-play next season. He’d be playing for a coach who won’t accept anything else but 100% effort and engagement, and he’d be as motivated as ever to prove to the entire league that he can still get the job done.
It was an ugly 14 games for Klingberg as a Maple Leaf last season. Heading into uncertain times once free agency opens, if there’s a one-year deal in sight and on the cheap, Treliving needs to consider giving him a chance to totally redeem himself.

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