Maple Leafs Commentary: What Does Sandin’s Signing Mean?

Rasmus Sandin has shown that above all else he is a Toronto Maple Leafs’ team player. The word is that, after watching his team lose two defensemen to injuries, Sandin and his agent Lewis Gross contacted General Manager Kyle Dubas with their desire to end the stalemate.  

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We’re guessing, but we feel this signing was Sandin’s doing, not his agent’s. After advising Sandin to hold out for a better deal than Timothy Liljegren received we can’t see Gross calling Sandin and telling him to sign the deal they had already rejected.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Rasmus Sandin Has Little Choice But to Become a Star

Assuming that’s the case, we say “Good for him.” This contract stalemate never made sense to us. Sandin had no leverage and, after missing a good chunk of the last half of last season due to injury, he needed to play. But logic aside, the move would cement Sandin in the locker room as one of the guys who put the team ahead of his own desires.

Liljegren Has Passed Sandin on the Organization’s Depth Chart

Sandin comes into camp with added incentive as well. When he joined the organization in 2018 a year after Liljegren, Sandin quickly passed Liljegren on the organization’s prospect depth chart. He made his NHL debut before Liljegren did despite being drafted a year later than his Swedish compatriot.

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, last season Sandin was injured and Liljegren played the best hockey in his career over the last half of the season. The result is that Liljegren caught and, in some people’s opinion, surpassed Sandin on the Maple Leafs’ defensive rankings.

Related: Ranking the NHL’s 32 Starting Goalies – 2022-23 Season

In addition, Liljegren is a more coveted right-handed defenseman. The contract starts them at even. Does that give Sandin the incentive of retaking that rank?

 When Can We Expect To See Sandin Play?

The questions now are where and when does Sandin play? We had wondered precisely where he was while the contract negotiations were ongoing. Yesterday’s reports stated that he was still in Sweden. That means he has to fly to Toronto, pass his medical, and get some time on the ice before getting into a game. 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Maple Leafs play Friday and Monday. Following that, they have four days until their final two preseason games next Friday and Saturday. We would expect Sandin to miss the next two games, and then get some practice in before playing in the team’s last two preseason games. 

Sandin Is Desperately Needed by the Team

At this moment the Maple Leafs only have five healthy defensemen with much NHL experience. These players include Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, Justin Holl, and Victor Mete. Liljegren is out with the hernia operation recovery. Jake Muzzin has back issues and is day-to-day (although he’s now skating). Now Jordie Benn is out with a groin injury and Carl Dahlstrom is out with a shoulder injury.  

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If Muzzin continues to have back problems and misses time, it would make the most sense for Giordano to move up into the top four on the left side and Sandin to slide into the third pair left side. If Muzzin returns, Sandin would still be a better option than Mete to play on the third pair right side.

Related: Top 10 Undersized NHL Players

While Sandin has limited experience on that side in the NHL and struggled when he did play there, it would make sense to play him on that side next to Giordano on the third pair. Maybe Giordano could do the same thing for Sandin that he did for Liljegren on that pairing. 

How Does Sandin Impact the Salary Cap?

One problem the signing of Sandin brings to the Maple Leafs is that it puts them close to $3 million over the upper limits of the salary cap with a 23-man roster (according to Capfriendly.com). 

If Liljegren goes on LTIR as we expect he will, having his $1.4 million removed drops that down to exactly $1,493,116 over the cap. If the Maple Leafs place Kyle Clifford on waivers (and we also expect they will) that slashes another $762,500 off the cap putting them $730,616 over. Waiving one more $750,000 forward gives the team the bare minimum 20-man roster and puts them under the salary cap by $19,384.  

Related: The Maple Leafs’ Best Defenseman? Rasmus Sandin

When Liljegren is re-activated from LTIR, unless someone else is injured and placed on LTIR by then, it means the Maple Leafs will be forced to deal a roster player to remain under the salary cap. It also must be more than just a player making the league minimum. 

Welcome Back Rasmus Sandin

While it does cause the Maple Leafs issues that need to be resolved, it is still good that Rasmus Sandin is back. Perhaps even better is the selfless way he did it. He’s in the locker room as one of the guys.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]


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