What the Mark Giordano extension with Leafs might mean for Rasmus Sandin

Now that Mark Giordano is back in the fold — taking the Jason Spezza Special hometown discount contract — Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has some interesting choices ahead of him.

The starkest is on defence, where the left side looks a little overcrowded with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Giordano and Rasmus Sandin each expecting significant playing time but room, really, for only three.

The GM also faces a salary cap crunch with up to eight players to re-sign or replace, and only $7.3 million (U.S.) or so with which to do it. Key among them: goalie Jack Campbell, forward Ilya Mikheyev and perhaps defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin.

The Giordano deal — at a team-friendly cap hit of $800,000 — gives Dubas options to deal with a cap crunch and roster holes that he hasn’t had in previous off-seasons.

On the ice, Giordano is the ideal third-pair left-side blueliner. A mentor and leader who rarely makes mistakes. Even at 38, he can kill penalties and run a power play. He may have lost a step, but the evidence showed he made up for that with smart positioning and good overall hockey IQ.

And his return is probably terrific news for right-handed defenceman Timothy Liljegren, who blossomed when paired with Giordano down the stretch.

But it might not be such good news for Sandin, the other young Swedish defenceman the Leafs have been grooming.

Both Sandin and Liljegren are restricted free agents,…

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