NHL free agency 2023: Maple Leafs sign John Klingberg to 1-year, $4.15 million contract

The Toronto Maple Leafs have added a right-shot defenceman after losing Luke Schenn in free agency.

The Toronto Maple Leafs entered free agency with just two right-shot defenceman on the roster — Timothy Liljegren and Connor Timmons — but they've added to that list by signing John Klingberg.

Klingberg is joining Toronto on a one-year deal worth $4.15 million. He's coming off a 2022-23 season split between the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild that saw him produce 33 points in 67 games and skate 20:37 per night.

In his nine-year NHL career the Swede has always provided at least 20 minutes per night for his team, and often played a prominent role on the power play. Since he debut in 2014-15, his 408 points rank eighth among all defenceman.

Those numbers might overstate what the Maple Leafs will get from Klingberg in the year to come as his early-career numbers were more impressive that what he's managed lately. In the first five years of his career, he never posted fewer than 40 points and produced double-digit goals four times. He also came sixth in Norris Trophy voting twice.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have added John Klingberg to their defence corps. (David Berding/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have added John Klingberg to their defence corps. (David Berding/Getty Images)

Since then, he has just one seasons with 10 or more goals in four years, and he's fallen short of 40 points three times. Point production is far from the only way to judge a defenceman, but Klingberg has made his reputation on playmaking and offensive production. His defensive play does not tend to garner rave reviews.

It will be intriguing to see how the Maple Leafs choose to deploy Klingberg. He's unlikely to get first-unit power-play time with Morgan Rielly in town, but he may well run the second unit. The veteran has topped one minute of short-handed ice time per game once in his career, but with Luke Schenn and Justin Holl gone the Maple Leafs need help in that area.

Klingberg must have believed that his role in Toronto would allow him to showcase his abilities — or the $4.15 million was too enticing to walk away from. There are few other explanations for signing a one-year deal when the veteran likely could've sought out more term elsewhere.

As a result of this contract, the blueliner will be able to hit the free-agent market again next year, when the salary cap projects to be $4 million higher.