John Klingberg, once hailed as one of the league’s premier defensemen, now finds himself at a critical juncture with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 31-year-old, who took a significant pay cut on a one-year deal, is grappling to secure a consistent spot in the Maple Leafs’ lineup. So far, it hasn’t been working that well for him.
Could Klingberg Reprise His Game on His Home Ice?
As the team embarks on a two-game journey in Klingberg’s home country of Sweden, these games could prove decisive in shaping his future with the NHL. Currently demoted to the Maple Leafs’ third defensive pairing, Klingberg faces the risk of being sidelined altogether once injured defensemen Timothy Liljegren and Conor Timmins return.
If Klingbery plays well, he could turn his fate in a positive direction. If he does not, he could potentially find himself on the outside looking in alongside fellow Swedish defenseman William Lagesson. Lagesson has been promoted from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and has hung in there pretty well since taking over from Liljegren.
The Stakes Are High for Klingberg
The stakes are high for Klingberg. Although it’s a pay decrease for him, he’s still a salary-cap hit that could be used in other places if he doesn’t produce – and soon. If there’s no improvement in his game, would the Maple Leafs contemplating how to navigate out of his $4.15 million cap hit?
A standout performance in these homecoming games might offer him a lifeline. Klingberg does have a solid game in him. During the Maple Leafs’ recent game against the high-flying Vancouver Canucks, Klingberg logged 19 minutes of quality time on the ice. In that game, he registered an Expected-Goals-For Percentage of 74% and contributed to an 84% Scoring Chances rate for the Maple Leafs when he was on the ice.
Of the Four Maple Leafs Swedish Players, Klingberg Has the Most to Gain (or Lose)
Of the four Swedish players donning the Maple Leafs jersey, Klingberg shoulders the most significant pressure. Can he deliver a stellar performance and prove he still has what it takes to be a valuable asset in the NHL? If he cannot, what happens then?