April 17th, 2024

Maple Leafs reacquire Russian defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin in three-team trade

By The Canadian Press on February 29, 2024.

Anaheim Ducks defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin (46) is pressured by Buffalo Sabres right wing Kyle Okposo (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Ilya Lyubushkin is back with the Maple Leafs. Toronto acquired the bruising defenceman and the rights to forward Kirill Slepets on Thursday night in a three-team deal that also involved the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jeffrey T. Barnes

TORONTO – Ilya Lyubushkin is back with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto acquired the bruising defenceman and the rights to forward Kirill Slepets in a three-team deal late Thursday night that also involved the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes.

Leafs general manager Brad Treliving addressed a glaring need with Lyubushkin, adding a right shot to a blue-line corps in badly need of some balance.

Toronto dressed six left-shot defenders for the second consecutive game in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. But the Leafs lost veteran Mark Giordano to a head injury in the first period after he crashed into the boards.

The Leafs were already minus righties Timothy Liljegren (undisclosed injury) and Conor Timmins (mononucleosis) while John Klingberg is on long-term injured reserve following season-ending hip surgery.

Lyubushkin’s first stint with the Leafs lasted 31 games and one playoff round after former GM Kyle Dubas acquired the Russian from Arizona in a February 2022 swap.

The dependable 29-year-old provides almost nothing going forward, but developed good chemistry with Leafs No. 1 defenceman Morgan Rielly two years ago.

As part of Thursday’s trade, Anaheim received Toronto’s third-round pick in the 2025 draft and retained 50 per cent of Lyubushkin’s salary.

Carolina got a 2024 sixth-round selection and retained 50 per cent of Lyubushkin’s remaining salary, leaving the Leafs with an average annual value of US$687,500 on their salary cap.

Lyubushkin appeared in 55 games for Anaheim this season, recording four assists and 51 penalty minutes.

The six-foot-two, 200-pound defenceman joined the Coyotes as a free agent in May 2018.

Slepets was drafted by Carolina with the 152nd pick at the 2019 draft. The 24-year-old, who has never played in North America, has eight goals and 19 points this season with Khabarovsk Amur of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League.

The NHL trade deadline is set for March 8 at 3 p.m. ET.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

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