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Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars with teammates on the bench on March 15.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Here comes Rasmus, just in the nick of time.

A day after playing an exhibition game in which two forwards were forced to fill in on defence, the Maple Leafs agreed on Thursday to a two-year deal with Rasmus Sandin worth an annual average value of US$1.4-million.

The 22-year-old defenceman, who had been holding out at home in Sweden, will join the team shortly and likely will be in the lineup when the regular season starts on Oct. 12 in Montreal.

“It is big for us,” said Justin Holl, a fellow defender. “He has been comfortable early in his career and he has a long time to learn. The sky is the limit for him. I am glad he is coming back.”

Toronto’s core of blueliners is so tattered that winger Mitch Marner was paired with Morgan Rielly for a while during practice at the Ford Performance Centre on Thursday. On Wednesday night, Alexander Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok played two periods on the back end after Jordie Benn suffered a groin strain and Carl Dahlstrom incurred a shoulder injury. No timetable has been provided for their return.

The defence was already missing Timothy Liljegren, who underwent surgery for a hernia, and Jake Muzzin. The latter practised for the first time during training camp but is still bugged by a bum back.

In addition, injuries have sidelined forwards John Tavares, the Maple Leafs captain, Pierre Engvall and Adam Gaudette.

“It has been kind of crazy how many people have gotten hurt,” said Audette, a centre. He tweaked a shoulder during a preseason game on Saturday. “It is tough to see guys go down. Everybody is fighting for spots and giving their all.

“You never want to see anyone get injured no matter what your status is on the team.”

For their part, Kerfoot and Jarnkrok both earned rave reviews after being inserted in positions that were unfamiliar to them in the 3-0 victory over the Canadiens.

“I’ve never played defence,” Kerfoot said. “I was lost out there a little bit. I just tried to do my best.”

He played opposite veteran d-man T.J. Brodie.

“If he can make me look good, he can do that for anybody,” Kerfoot said.

Matt Murray, who stopped all 16 shots he faced in two periods, talked more about Kerfoot and Jarnkrok than he did about his debut in Toronto’s net. Murray, who was obtained in a trade from Ottawa, is fighting for the starting position with fellow newcomer Ilya Samsonov.

“I had a blast but I have to say something about the way they stepped in,” Murray said. “To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen two forwards playing defence. I can’t believe how seamless it was.”

Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs coach, talked to them during the first intermission to let them know they were being used on the back end on an emergency basis.

“With their skill sets, I thought those two in particular would help us there,” Keefe said. “They are two selfless players and will just do whatever they can to help the team. I thought they were incredible.”

Toronto faces the Ottawa Senators in its next preseason encounter, on Friday in Belleville, Ont., before it travels to Montreal on Monday for another exhibition. There is no telling who might end up on the blueline.

“It is a challenge when you lose a couple of guys,” Rielly said. “Kerfoot and Calle made it look a little too easy back there. They made our defencemen look bad.”

Nicholas Robertson, who scored on Wednesday and is pushing for a position as a winger, said he is glad that he didn’t get tabbed for the assignment.

“I would be in shock,” said Robertson, 21. “I’m not a fan of skating backwards. I have only played defence once or twice in my life.”