Ducks acquire defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin from Sabres in exchange for 2025 fourth-round pick

The Anaheim Ducks have acquired Ilya Lyubushkin from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 2025 fourth-round draft pick, the teams announced Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Lyubushkin notched two goals and 12 assists in his lone season with the Sabres during 2022-23.
  • The 29-year-old began his NHL career by signing with the Arizona Coyotes as an undrafted defenseman in 2018-19. He spent his first three seasons with the Coyotes.
  • Lyubushkin has played 279 games during his five-year tenure, recording five goals and 34 assists.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Why this made sense for Sabres

The Sabres needed to move out a defenseman after adding Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton during free agency. With those additions, Buffalo had 10 defensemen under contract who played in the NHL last season.

Trading Lyubushkin made sense. He had one year left on a contract with a $2.75 million cap hit. He’s a right shot defenseman who brought some needed physicality and penalty killing experience to Buffalo last season, but Johnson and Clifton will fill that role going forward.

The 2025 fourth-round pick isn’t much, but it’s another asset for a potential in-season trade.

Now the Sabres have a more manageable group of defensemen heading into the season. Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Owen Power, Henri Jokiharju, Johnson and Clifton should make up the top six defensemen. That will leave Riley Stillman, Jacob Bryson and Kale Clague competing for a roster spot or two.

Buffalo still has enough depth to make another trade if they choose, but that’s a decent group with which to head into the season.

This move also opened up $2.75 million in cap space for the Sabres, but they weren’t desperate for wiggle room under the cap. Buffalo could use another forward to give them more options while Jack Quinn misses time with an Achilles injury. General manager Kevyn Adams will also continue to monitor the trade market between now and the start of training camp, but this could be the roster the Sabres take to camp. — Fairburn

What does the trade mean for the Ducks?

It is a pure add from a trade standpoint for Anaheim general manager Pat Verbeek, who has gone the free-agent route the last two summers in acquiring proven NHL talent but has usually been in sell mode when it comes to deal-making for his rebuilding team. Lyubushkin isn’t a big name by any means but he’s a serviceable sort that should bring more stiffness to a Ducks blue line that was often overwhelmed or pushed around in a disastrous 2022-23 season.

It was something Verbeek was determined to change for 2023-24 and signing hard-hitting, tough-minded Radko Gudas was the start to that. Lyubushkin is another who’s more focused on the defensive end first and that should be another welcome sight for beleaguered goalie John Gibson. The 29-year-old should slot in on the third pairing on the right side behind Gudas and Jamie Drysdale, helping to complete Anaheim’s defense corps.

And with him being in a contract year, a solid season for the Russian could allow Verbeek to spin him for a decent asset at the 2024 trade deadline. With letting Kevin Shattenkirk walk to free agency, Anaheim had a huge hole to fill and needed another credible defender or turn to promoting someone like prospect Drew Helleson. This allows Helleson to get a lot of minutes and more seasoning at the AHL level, which Verbeek has said would rather do with his prospects that rush them to NHL too soon. — Stephens


The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman finished his 2021-22 campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being traded from the Coyotes earlier in the season. While in Toronto, Lyubushkin scored two goals and four assists in 31 games before signing with Buffalo as a free agent.

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(Photo: Graham Stokes / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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