It’s always fun to wake up to a trade, so let’s dig right into what Kyle Dubas managed to do here.
Ilya Lyubushkin shouldn’t come with massive expectations. Yes, he has logged minutes with Arizona’s top defenders over the past couple of years, but Arizona has been a terrible team. If you’re the guy getting the most minutes on a bottom team then either you (Lyubushkin), or your teammates (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun) are being tasked with doing more than can be handled.
Luckily for Lyubushkin, he won’t need to play as high in the lineup in Toronto as he did in Arizona, which could make him the perfect fit here.
Lyubushkin won’t wow you with skill, but as of today he’s the Leafs blueline leader in Hits/60 (6.77) and would place second in Blocks/60 (4.32), behind Justin Holl. He’s been logging 2:32/TOI/GP shorthanded and 18-20 minutes a night total. Combine that with good size and you’re looking at an excellent 3rd pair defender that can jump a little higher in the lineup when needed.
There really isn’t much to say beyond this, as his game (to use a Keefe-ism) is pretty vanilla.
However, sometimes you just want something vanilla flavoured.
Ryan Dzingel was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 7th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and experienced a couple of productive seasons for the Sens. He managed to garner 41 and 56pt seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively, but those days appear to be over.
He produced 8 goals and 13pts in 40 games last season and has 4 goals and 7pts in 26 games so far in this campaign. He’s a depth scorer that hasn’t earned any special teams time in Arizona, but that’s new to him as he has historically factored into his teams powerplay units.
Lastly, while Dzingel is listed as a centre in most areas of the internet, he’s terrible on the dot and is better suited to the wing. Maybe it’s a position he could play in a pinch but he shouldn’t be asked to be a long term fixture there.
Nick Ritchie came to Toronto with a lot of hope from me and now my only hope is that Leafs management doesn’t abandon the idea of adding a big power forward to the group because they simply chose the wrong one. He’s been talked about as if he’d be a major cap dump but I never believed that and, obviously, I was right. The price to acquire the two players that Toronto got definitely went up a little considering Ritchie had to go the other way, but not to the extend that many predicted. He’s been a useful player for a few teams now and with Arizona at the very beginning of what looks to be a lengthy rebuild (they’re shopping a 23 year old top 4 defender, not sure why he doesn’t factor into their future, but okay, you do you Arizona), they’re going to need players that can help them reach the cap floor. The fact that Ritchie is a willing combatant at times that can help protect some of their incoming younger players, as well as the possibility of him turning things around and bringing back picks as early as next year just adds icing to the cake for them. This isn’t the Patrick Marleau salary dump and it was never going to be.
It was a rough road, but I hope things turn around for Ritchie, he wanted to return to Ontario to play hockey for his home team and, unfortunately, that just didn’t work out the way he envisioned.
Lastly, the Leafs moved a conditional pick in the deal. The Coyotes will received a 3rd round pick in 2023, or, if they wish to wait, a 2nd round pick in 2025. With all their picks except for their 3rd (possibly) and 7th rounder in 2023, the Leafs may look to move further picks from that draft. They’re heading into a second consecutive year in which they only hold 3 selections (2nd, 5th, 6th in 2021, 1st, 2nd and 7th in 2022 so far), so dealing more picks from this draft might be unwise. This works for the Yotes because they hold three 1st round selections and five(!!) 2nd round selections this season. They’re already stocking up on future selections as well. With multiple 2nd round picks in the 2024 draft, it’s the 2023 draft that appears to be their slowest at the moment.
This trade certainly helps the team with depth, but I don’t think it solves the issue of bringing in a competent partner for Jake Muzzin. While it appears to be Muzzin himself that’s dragging things down on that pairing at times, the hope is that he can bring his game up if he has somebody with him that is at all capable of leaning on.
My expectations for Dubas now are that he’ll take the next few weeks to see how well Lyubushkin fits in with his other blueliners and if he needs to add additional support there he will. For the time being I would expect things to be quiet on the trade front though.