Shortly after their win over Arizona, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for Ilya Lyubushkin for the second time in three years. This time, the Anaheim Ducks acquired a 3rd round pick for Lyubushkin. The Ducks agreed to retain 50% of Lyubushkin’s salary, while the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a 6th rounder to retain another 25% of the Russian’s salary. The Maple Leafs will have Lyubushkin at a cap hit under the league minimum for the rest of the season. Lyubushkin was ranked second on my Maple Leafs trade deadline targets – defencemen list, behind only Chris Tanev. Let’s break down this trade, starting with what to like about it.

What to like about the Ilya Lyubushkin Trade:

The fit:

Lyubushkin fits the Leafs’ needs in multiple ways. Firstly, he brings size and physicality to the team. His hard-nosed style will be valuable for the Leafs in the playoffs. The fact that he shoots right is important too. With Timothy Liljegren out, Toronto dressed six lefties for the last two games. While this isn’t unheard of, it’s far from ideal. With Lyubushkin and Liljegren in the lineup, the Leafs only need to play one lefty on the right side.

The cost:

A 3rd round pick is a reasonable price to pay for Lyubushkin. A further 6th rounder to get Lyubushkin on a cheaper cap hit is also worth the price. Given the cost, Leafs fans will naturally compare this trade to the deal that landed them Luke Schenn last year. While Lyubushkin may not make the same impact as Schenn, paying the same price is fair considering the salary retention.

The cap hit:

Adding Lyubushkin at a salary below the league minimum is extremely valuable for Toronto. If Lyubushkin ends up as the 7th defenceman, they won’t be wasting much valuable cap space on him. Even more importantly, this leaves cap space for the Maple Leafs to make another, larger trade before the deadline.

What not to like about the Ilya Lyubushkin Trade:

Missed opportunities:

The biggest criticism of this trade isn’t the trade itself, but the players the Leafs missed out on. Brad Treliving failed to acquire not one but two defencemen from his former team. Considering the cost of both trades, missing out on both Nikita Zadarov and Chris Tanev stings. Either one would have been a more impactful addition to the team. Brad Treliving will likely lament his inability to land one of his former players.

Lyubushkin’s performance:

Another point of contention with this trade is Lyubushkin’s play. The fact that a player is a good fit on paper doesn’t mean much if he can’t perform at a high level. Lyubushkin’s advanced stats from the last two seasons are ugly. Yes, Lyubushkin played on two poor teams in Buffalo and Anaheim, but that can’t fully excuse his results. The Maple Leafs will count on Lyubushkin to improve his game in a more favourable environment.

Final Grade: B

Despite a hostile fan reaction, the positives of this deal outweigh the negatives. Missing out on Tanev and Zadarov stings, but considering who was available Lyubushkin is a solid consolation.

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