Maple Leafs reacquire defenceman Iyla Lyubushkin

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.

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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.

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

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