The Toronto Maple Leafs have been having themselves a busy offseason. After the success of last year, in which they went to the playoffs and tangled with the Washington Capitals, the Leafs will now look to build on that momentum this coming year.
In order to do so, they had to dip into the free agent market and make some key signings. There was also the matter of the draft where they were able to select some key players that will hopefully help the team in the near future.
The Slick Swede
If you had told me that Timothy Liljegren would fall to the 17th overall pick, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. The highly touted Swedish defenseman was a favourite to go in the top three for most of last year.
The drop was caused by a number of different things. Liljegren came down with a case of mono, a sickness that is notoriously difficult to work yourself back from. The young defenseman was sidelined for a significant chunk of time and as a result saw his draft stock start to slip.
That caused him to come back early to play, even though he wasn’t completely healthy. He was unable to find his groove and his playing time took a hit in response. He was also sent to a bevy of different teams and wasn’t able to develop chemistry.
The smooth-skating Swede is now the Leafs property and fans couldn’t be happier. He has elite offensive instincts and can quarterback a powerplay with ease. He will need to work on his defensive presence but rest assured that Mike Babcock and his staff will be on top of that project.
Liljegren will be in one of two places next year. He will either return to Sweden or stay in Toronto and play for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. I think they AHL is a smart bet because he’s in Toronto, the Leafs are able to keep a close eye on their top prospect and he would have the opportunity to get used to the North American game style and ice.
Liljegren wants to challenge for a roster spot in the 2018-19 season. If the Leafs are able to develop him correctly and get the most out of the defenseman, he could prove to be a very valuable weapon in the coming years.
The Veteran Scorer
The Leafs made a significant splash in free agency this year. They were able to sign Patrick Marleau to a three-year deal worth $18.75 million. It was a bit of a surprise signing because Marleau has spent his entire 19-year career with San Jose up to this point.
The buzz around Toronto’s recent success was enough to convince the scoring veteran to make a change late in his career. That’s an incredibly good sign for the Leafs, who will now be working to become one of the top free agent destinations.
Marleau brings some great assets to the table. He’s been in the league a long time and knows how the NHL works inside and out. His experience will be invaluable to the young Maple Leafs like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
Marleau will also be able to keep up with all three of those players and despite being 37, he still has his fluid and almost effortless skating. He’s also incredibly durable and has only missed a paltry 31 games over his almost 20-year career.
Since 2000 Patrick Marleau has scored 25 goals or more in every season except 2 (+17 in lockout shortened season which prorates to 30/82)
— King Marleau the 12 (@DrCoolSexy) July 8, 2017
Marleau is a productive scoring forward and was able to put up 27 goals and 46 total points this past season. It’s not clear where he will slot in with the Leafs, but many people hope that he will find a spot on the wing of Auston Matthews.
Dominic Moore and Ron Hainsey also joined the Leafs this summer and are veterans who will compliment the Leafs youthful exuberance nicely. It should be a fun year for Maple Leafs hockey in 2017-18.