The Arizona Coyotes are a defence-heavy team in the NHL, so there are some questions they will need to address in the summer.
With the bid-bodied Russian often being left out of Rick Tocchet‘s starting six, questions should be asked as to what the team’s plans are, with Lyubushkin set to become a restricted free agent in the summer.
Lyubushkin joined the Coyotes last summer as an undrafted free agent out of the KHL, where he had racked up 257 regular season appearances for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
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Since arriving in the desert, Lyubushkin has been a solid, physical presence along the blue-line, but has only managed to crack the line-up 38 times, registering four assists in the process.
The defensive defenceman has put his body on the line time and time again to help the Arizona Coyotes disrupt opposing teams on route to a surprising playoff push.
Lyubushkin has blocked 58 shots and has an astonishing 134 hits in his 38 regular season appearances, averaging around three and a half hits every night he is on the ice.
But the 6-foot-2, 201lbs right-hander hasn’t played a game since February 28th and, with Jason Demers returning and barring any injuries, he may not get many opportunities down the stretch.
The Coyotes also have Kevin Connauton as a part of their defensive corps, with him viewed as the seventh guy – making it even harder for Lyubushkin to get a look in when everyone is healthy.
Fans have been impressed with Lyubushkin’s performances during his rookie campaign, but expect he may not be able to remain with the team for the long-term, with a demotion to the AHL out of the question.
With the likes of Kyle Capobianco developing well and Robbie Russo also in the minors, the Arizona Coyotes might find themselves in a position to trade the Russian blueliner in the summer to a team needing some help on the right side.
A deal involving Lyubushkin and Brown would make sense for both teams and could see the Coyotes solve their overloaded defence issue while adding a forward that could have a legitimate impact.
Losing Lyubushkin to the KHL would be a disappointment for the team, so a trade should definitely be on the cards if John Chayka feels that the team has too many defencemen to deal with heading into next season.
If not, it would be nice to see him offered a new deal that keeps him playing his hockey in the desert beyond 2019.
What do you think Coyotes fans? What should the team do with Lyubushkin and his expiring contract? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!