It was something that was hinted at being in the works for the last few weeks, but the Leafs have finally announced their European free agent signings.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) May 16, 2017
The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Swedish defensemen Calle Rosén and Andreas Borgman to two-year entry-level contracts. Rosén had been reported to have been in talks to sign with the Leafs after the World Championships, so it’s not a surprise to see this officially announced. Borgman’s name came as a surprise as there was no talk about him joining the Leafs or even being a consideration until very recently.
Heard rumors about Borgman to Leafs over the weekend. Couple scouts I talked to were complimentary of him and NHL potential in TOR.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 16, 2017
Aside from Rosén, the other player that the Leafs were thought to have had an interest in was Philip Holm. The interest in Holm made sense for the Leafs since Rosén is his teammate in the Swedish Hockey League. But with the Borgman signing, it seems unlikely that the Leafs will also sign Holm when all three are left-handed defensemen.
So who are these two players that the Leafs signed?
The Run Down
Rosén comes to the Leafs as one of the more sought-after European defensemen. The Chicago Blackhawks were reportedly also in the running to sign the young Swede, but he ultimately chose Toronto. So what does the 23-year-old defenseman bring to the Leafs?
At 6’0″ and 176 lbs he’s not the biggest defenseman, but he does bring mobility and some offense. He finished this season with 19 points and six goals in 41 games with the Växjö Lakers HC and was 11th in points for defensemen in the SHL. Rosén also won the award for most goals by a defenseman in the Champions Hockey League tournament with five goals in 11 games.
It’s surprising that Borgman wasn’t more sought-after, like Rosén, after the résumé that he’s complied at just 21 years old.
Borgman comes in at 6’0″ and 205 lbs and comes to the Leafs with some significant hardware. This past season was his rookie year in the SHL and he finished with an impressive 15 points and five goals in 45 games with HV71. During the playoffs, he had 10 points in 14 games which helped HV71 become the SHL Champion. Borgman also won SHL rookie of the year for his play over the course of the season.
Factoring Into the Leafs
Last week I mentioned Rosén as a player that could be one of the new faces among the offseason changes to the Leafs’ defense. Now with both Rosén and Borgman signed, where do they fit into the Leafs organization?
With both players being left-handed defensemen it could mean that only one of them makes the NHL next season. With the way that coach Mike Babcock likes to have defensemen play on the side relative to their handedness, it would mean they are fighting for the same spot.
That is also assuming that the Leafs don’t bring any more defensemen into the mix. The Leafs could always re-sign Matt Hunwick and there is both Martin Marincin and Travis Dermott that need to be considered as well.
The Leafs have shown that they like to have spares on the team in case of an injury, in which case they won’t have to call anyone up from the Toronto Marlies. This wasn’t the case this past season as there were almost no injuries and multiple players spent most of the season watching from the sidelines.
With both being young defensemen on entry-level contracts, it’s most likely that they start the season in the AHL. They will need time to adjust to the North American style of hockey and so a year in the AHL will give them that needed time. Their youth is a major point of these signings. It gives the Leafs plenty of time to evaluate what kind of players they are while not rushing them into the NHL and adding to their defensive depth.