The Maple Leafs have made two depth additions on their blue line, signing RHD Alex Biega and LHD Carl Dahlström to matching one-year, two-way $750,000 contracts.
Biega, 33 years of age, has played 241 NHL games spanning seven seasons split between Detroit and Vancouver, chipping in 42 points while averaging a shade under 16 minutes during his time with the Canucks and 15:13 per game in his last two seasons as a #6/7 defenseman in Detroit. He’s played a secondary penalty-killing role in Detroit over the past few seasons, averaging 1:42 per game there last season and 1:09 in shorthanded ice time per game in 2020-21.
The 5’10, 200-pound Quebec native spent the bulk of his time on a pairing with Patrik Nemeth over the past two seasons (before Nemeth was traded to Colorado at the 2021 trade deadline) and also shared the ice with Madison Bowey and Dennis Cholowski on the Red Wings’ bottom pairing at different times. With Nemeth, the pairing was deeply underwater in shots, chances, and expected goals at 5v5, but they managed to stay even on goals (8 for, 8 against) on a bottom-feeding Red Wings team despite starting just 38% of their shifts in the offensive zone.
Carl Dahlström, 26, spent 2020-21 in the AHL with the Henderson Silver Knights, the Golden Knights’ new AHL affiliate, but the Swede has appeared in 64 NHL games for the Blackhawks and Jets since 2017-18. The 6’4, 230-pound left-shot recorded 10 assists in those games while averaging 17:31 per night. This appears to be more of a Marlies signing than a Leafs one barring a bunch of injuries at the Leafs‘ left defense position, but with long-tenured Maple Leaf Martin Marincin departed for Europe, Dahlström can fill Marincin’s #8-9 role on the depth chart and log substantial all-situations minutes for the Marlies.
Biega is the more credible Leafs option here both given his more extensive NHL track record and the Leafs‘ open competition on the right side of their bottom pairing. We will have to wait to see if the Leafs are finished adding depth options for their bottom pairing, but Biega looks to be adding a physical, veteran presence as a #7 who will come in and compete with Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin for minutes. Kyle Dubas’ interviews last week hinted that we may well see the Leafs shade more towards adding a #6/7 than a firm #6 in order to keep the door cracked open for Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin to play regular minutes (either with Liljegren in on the right, or Dermott shifted over there with Sandin on the left).
If this is all Kyle Dubas adds on defense — Biega as a #6/7, Dahlström and Brennan Mennell as Marlies depth — it would appear that the Leafs’ 2017 and 2018 first-round draft selections are in for a real opportunity to stake their claim to full-time NHL roster spots.