The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin and forward Ryan Dzingel from the Arizona Coyotes. Nick Ritchie is headed to Arizona along with a conditional second-round pick.

The Coyotes will have their choice between the Leafs‘ second-round selection in 2025 or their third-round selection in 2023.

Lyubushkin, 27, is a 6’2″ right-shooting defenseman who plays a physical style. He has paired primarily with Jakob Chychrun this season after spending most of his time with Oliver Ekman-Larsson the year prior. Having watched 10-15 Coyotes games this season, Lyubushkin stood out as a trade target for the Leafs, mainly due to his right shot and physical style.

Lyubushkin is not a pylon — he’s a fine skater. However, you shouldn’t expect much from him offensively, as he has just one goal and 18 assists in 180 career games. He needs to play with a strong puck mover, but he’s used to matching up against opposing top lines and has graded out quite well defensively by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM in three straight seasons. The modern game is too fast for the physical defenseman who can’t skate, but I see Lyubushkin as a fine transition defender; he reminds me a bit of Zach Bogosian.

Lyubushkin is a zero offensively, but his relative-to-teammate metrics have typically been strong in terms of suppressing shot quality in a tough environment in which to thrive defensively on mostly weak Arizona teams. He led Arizona defensemen with 96 hits and is top 30 in the NHL among defensemen (min. 30 games played) in hits thrown per 60 this season.

Get ready to see a few big collisions:

Ilya Lyubushkin Scouting Report

via the McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook

A rock-solid defensive defenseman, Ilya Lyubushkin was on the radar of many NHL teams this season and signed with the Coyotes after five seasons with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL. With the Russian club, Lyubushkin tallied 36 points in 257 games over the past five years, exhibiting a hesitance to get involved offensively, but mainly because that is the opposite of what makes him an effective presence. A classic, old-school stay-at-home defenseman, Lyubushkin has a tendency to play physical at all times, which helps limit high-danger inside scoring chances. He is also a relatively smart defenseman who makes good reads and likes to cut off passes and shots.

Ryan Dzingel

Dzingel, 29, has seven points in 26 games this season, and two of his four goals actually came against Toronto on January 12th. Three years ago, he was traded at the deadline along with a seventh-round pick for Anthony Duclair and two second-round picks. He racked up 44 points in 57 games for the Ottawa Senators prior to that trade, but he hasn’t produced near that level since.

Dzingel’s calling card is his finishing ability. He boasts a 14.1% career shooting percentage in 398 career games and has multiple 20-goal seasons on his resume between 2017-2019. He used to grade out rather poorly defensively by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM, but he has been a positive in that area now in back-to-back seasons. At 6’0″ with good speed, I still view him as an intriguing reclamation project. He might end up as a 13th forward, but there is a possibility he could play a similar role to Alex Galchenyuk last season.

I swear on my life, I almost tweeted about Dzingel as a trade target last night. However, I decided against it when I saw that he only has four points in 28 career playoff games. In theory, his shooting talent and willingness to play in the hard areas of the ice should actually translate quite well come playoff time, but it hasn’t quite worked out for him in the postseason yet.

Take his numbers with a grain of salt for this season (seven points in 26 games); he’s spent some time at center when he’s really more of a winger.

Ryan Dzingel Scouting Report

via the McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook

tenacity and perseverance .. good sense and mobility presents opportunities in scoring areas and exploit a good shot .. industrious and relentless in pursuit and on the forecheck .. composed edges and agility provide the balance for twists and smooth pivots and quick transition .. masterful at quickly shifting gears in motion – especially in high gear .. skating creates separation with the puck, where hands operate more efficiently .. net-front presence on the power play – and generally gets to high danger scoring areas with the puck in anticipation .. not a natural puck rusher – more attuned as a link up and support role, rather than spearheading attacks .. similar in the offensive zone, stealthily finds soft areas or lurks in the support layer .. tough and can play with required physicality, he lacks initial engagement and resorts to stick checks .. tends to stay within structure defensively, stretching his reach, but stays within system structure – shifts well positionally and backchecks – despite lacking some physical engagement .. mid-range winger.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to like about this deal for the Leafs.

With Ritchie’s $2.5 million cap hit through next season, a buyout in the offseason didn’t make much sense. Set to earn $3.3 million in actual salary next season compared to $1.7 million this season, Ritchie’s backloaded deal would’ve meant a $300k cap hit in 2022-23 followed by a $1.1 million cap hit in 2023-24 in the buyout scenario.

With Morgan Rielly set to earn a $2.5 million raise next season and the team’s goaltending soon to become more expensive, the Leafs need every cent of cap space that they can get. I understand why many fans are opposed to trading away more draft picks, but when you actually start to try to make the math work for next season, it becomes clear that moving a draft pick to get out of the Ritchie contract was the best path forward.

I thought the price to move Ritchie was going to be a second or a third, so it’s nice that the Leafs acquired two players in return who could potentially help them this season. Both Lyubushkin and Dzingel are set to be free agents after this season with 2021-22 cap hits of $1.35 million and $1.1 million, respectively.

It will now be wait-and-see now as to see how Toronto’s lineup shakes out following this deal. Lyubushkin could line up on the right-side with Rasmus Sandin, similar to the role Bogosian played last season. He could potentially play with Jake Muzzin as well, although I’m not sure how effective that pairing would be from a puck-moving perspective. If Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren play well in the second half, he could even feasibly end up as the seventh defenseman.

A secondary move will soon follow as the Leafs will have to send someone down to become cap compliant. Perhaps Liljegren goes to the Marlies, or Travis Dermott (and his $1.5 million cap hit) is moved out. With a buriable $1.1 million cap hit, Dzingel could even end up on waivers, although I’d like to see what he can do for at least a few games.

Sunday should be an interesting day for roster news!