Arizona Coyotes defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin could be a potential trade match for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are continuing their efforts to move Nick Ritchie, according to Sportsnet Elliotte Friedman.
"Arizona just announced their lineup for their game tonight. Ilya Lyubushkin is not playing. He's a defenceman, right-hand shot, I think he's a player that's had some interest around the league," said Friedman during the 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada. "He's not very well-known, but he's a pretty good player. And I'm wondering if this is a potential match between Toronto and Arizona.
"The Coyotes only have five players under contract for next year. We know that the Leafs are trying to move Nick Ritchie. I think there might be something here."
Lyubushkin, 27, has nine points through 46 games in his fourth NHL season. The Russian blueliner is currently on a one-year, $1.35-million deal.
Friedman reported last week that the Maple Leafs were shopping Ritchie.
The struggling winger cleared waivers on Jan. 7 and ever since then has been in limbo, at first assigned to the Maple Leafs taxi squad and then assigned to the AHL Marlies.
"There's no official trade request, but I think everybody here understands it might be better to find him somewhere else to play," said Friedman, "and I think there has been some traction in the last few days around the league."
Complicating trade talks is that Ritchie, who signed a two-year deal in the off-season with a $2.5 million cap hit each season, has a year left in his deal, Friedman said.
"If, for argument's sake the Maple Leafs were to buy him out, it would be $300,000 on next year's cap," said Friedman. "So, I don't think Toronto wants to retain anything more than that (in a trade). But, depending on how this can all go and how that can be worked out, it is believed there is some traction being gained on Ritchie around the league in clearing some room and finding him some space."