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Leafs trade Nick Ritchie and a conditional second to Arizona for Ilya Lyubushkin, Ryan Dzingel

Kyle Dubas firms up his depth while cutting bait on a dud free agent signing.

NHL: FEB 08 Coyotes at Canucks Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shortly after the Leafs finished up losing to the St. Louis Blues, help arrived in the form of a trade announcement.

Lyubushkin is the main draw here, a 27-year-old right-shot defender who’s hung in admirably in Arizona. He appears to be the classic big, low-event defenceman. Assuming his poor offensive impacts have more to do with “been in Arizona his whole NHL career” than his actual talent, he could be a sneaky-good addition. He’s not guaranteed to supersede Justin Holl at 2RD, but it’s also not out of the question. Lyubushkin makes $1.35M against the cap and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Ryan Dzingel, 29, might be the more recognizable of the two names coming back to Toronto. He’s always been a bit of an odd, low-event player with decent shooting. He had a couple of 20-goal seasons with the Ottawa Senators from 2017-19, but he’s fallen on somewhat harder times (when your main asset is shooting, and you’re getting outscored by David Kämpf, that’s a bad sign for you.) Still, he has a long NHL track record and adds to the team’s forward depth. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dzingel cracks the forward lineup—presumably it would be at the expense of Pierre Engvall—or whether he gets demoted to the AHL, where he hasn’t played since 2015-16.

Evolving Hockey

As for the departing player: power forward Nick Ritchie, 26, never quite found his groove in Toronto. He had a brutally cold shooting slump that cost him possibly the best chance of his career; he started the season playing LW to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and lost the job pretty definitively to Michael Bunting. Ritchie wound up in the AHL and was not especially happy about it, and so him going is no shock. The pick price is, as much as anything, there to clear Ritchie off the salary cap for next season, given that Lyubushkin and Dzingel are both on expiring deals.

From Arizona’s perspective, it seems like they didn’t get a lot for dealing out two rentals and taking the second year of Nick Ritchie. However, Arizona is openly tanking this year and has very little chance of being any good next year; they can reasonably expect to play Ritchie in the NHL for significant minutes, and to trade him next deadline for a pick. From Toronto’s perspective, this is a second to rent two players and unload Nick Ritchie. For Arizona, it might be a second and then an additional mid-round pick with delayed maturity on the investment.

All in all, this isn’t a dazzling pickup for the Leafs—maybe we’ll be talking about the Lyubushkin Trade as the move that put Toronto over the top in four months, but I doubt it—but it’s a logical one. It shores up two weaknesses (RHD and C/LW depth) without giving up anything too painful, and it frees up money for next season. Not a glorious trade, but an easy one to like as a Leafs fan.

What say you?

Poll

How do you feel about this trade?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Brilliant
    (342 votes)
  • 61%
    Good
    (1084 votes)
  • 15%
    Meh
    (278 votes)
  • 2%
    Bad
    (45 votes)
1749 votes total Vote Now

Posting for the pick condition:

Update: Dzingel’s stay in Toronto may prove short as the Leafs intend to waive him.