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Leafs reunite with Lyubushkin for pair of draft picks

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Ilya Lyubushkin is heading back to Toronto.

The Anaheim Ducks traded the rugged defenseman to the Maple Leafs for a 2025 third-round pick, the teams announced.

The Ducks will retain 50% of Lyubushkin's $2.75-million cap hit, while the Carolina Hurricanes will retain an additional 25%, bringing it down to $687,500. The Canes will receive a 2024 sixth-round pick from the Leafs for doing so. Toronto receives the rights to forward Kirill Slepets from Carolina.

Lyubushkin, a pending unrestricted free agent, played 31 regular-season contests with the Maple Leafs after a midseason trade from the Arizona Coyotes in 2021-22. He dressed in all seven of Toronto's playoff games that campaign, too - often pairing with Morgan Rielly at five-on-five.

While he provides little-to-no offense, Lyubushkin posted strong defensive metrics during that 2021-22 campaign.


However, his play has plummeted this season. He ranks second-last among NHL defensemen with minus-8.8 goals above replacement, and his minus-6.6 defensive goals above replacement is the fourth-worst at his position.


The 29-year-old has produced just four assists in 55 games with the Ducks this season while averaging 17:09 per contest. He's still providing plenty of grit, though, as he's racked up 138 blocks and 112 hits.

Timothy Liljegren is the only right-handed shot among Toronto's regular defensemen, but he's missed the last two games with an injury. Mark Giordano also suffered a head injury on Thursday against the Coyotes, and there's no timetable for his return. When fully healthy, the Leafs' blue line could look as follows:

Morgan Rielly Ilya Lyubushkin
T.J. Brodie Jake McCabe
Simon Benoit Timothy Liljegren

The retention on Lyubushkin's contract gives the Leafs plenty of cap space to make further moves, but their trade assets are dwindling. Toronto still has its 2024 first-round pick but doesn't have a second-rounder for the next three years. The team is notably without a pick until Round 5 in 2025.

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