Maple Leafs sign defenceman Timothy Liljegren to two-year deal

Timothy Liljegren is staying with the Toronto Maple Leafs after all.

It looked very much like Liljegren might not return to the Leafs, with arbitration looming this summer. There was some thought that a trade might even happen on the weekend while the NHL community was gathered in Vegas for the NHL Draft.

In the end, the Leafs agreed to a two-year deal with the 25-year-old, with a cap hit of $3 million, according to a league source.


Timothy Liljegren’s time with the Maple Leafs may be coming to an end

Liljegren would have had arbitration rights had he entered restricted free agency, a possibility that factored into the negotiations and ultimately, a deal getting done. The Leafs feared that Liljegren might receive an award in arbitration with a cap hit larger than the one with his new contract.

They avoided that possibility and now head into unrestricted free agency with certainty on Liljegren’s number. The deal will walk Liljegren to unrestricted free agency in 2026.

At that point, however, the Leafs should have a better sense of what exactly they have in Liljegren, whether he’s finally become a bona-fide top-four defenceman. If not, the Leafs can walk away and Liljegren can pursue his career elsewhere.

It’s not impossible he isn’t moved before then even after the signing of this deal. Liljegren’s new contract has zero no-trade protection, according to the source.

The Brad Treliving front office isn’t exactly enamoured with Liljegren, not yet anyway.

Perhaps that will change if Liljegren sticks around and seizes more opportunities under new Leafs coach Craig Berube. It’s possible that Liljegren steps into a more prominent position on the power play next season and/or gets a chance at some point in the top four and finally runs away with it.

That didn’t happen during Liljegren’s first three NHL seasons playing for former Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe.

It’s wise for the Leafs to at least leave themselves open to Liljegren (potentially) blossoming for a little while longer.

How the Leafs proceed in free agency will factor into what kind of role Liljegren will have next season, and perhaps whether he sticks around. At worst, he’s insurance if they can’t lure multiple defenders on the right side and/or a veteran depth defender like, say, Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Liljegren at this price tag for the next two seasons should be more appealing as a trade asset.

It’s a serious pay bump for the 2017 first-round pick, who just completed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.4 million.

If he makes a leap, the increase will be worth it.

The Leafs were busy Sunday ahead of free agency. They also signed forward Max Domi to a four-year deal with a $3.75 million cap hit.

(Photo: Mark Blinch / NHLI via Getty Images)

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