The Arizona Coyotes have re-signed Ilya Lyubushkin to a one-year contract, avoiding restricted free agent with the young defenseman. Signed out of Russia in 2018, Lyubushkin was limited to a one-year entry-level contract that was set to expire at the end of the month. The team did not disclose the salary of the new contract, but GM John Chayka did release a statement on the deal:
We are pleased to re-sign Ilya. He was a solid addition to our team last year and provided us with depth and a physical presence on our blueline. We look forward to having him on our roster this season.
The 25-year old defenseman ended up playing in 41 games for the Coyotes and immediately made his presence felt with an eye-popping physical style. Recording 150 hits and 61 blocked shots despite averaging fewer than 14 minutes a night, he played his way into this contract extension by providing something that is relatively hard to find in today’s NHL. In fact, only Oliver Ekman-Larsson recorded more hits among the Coyotes defense and he played in 40 more games than Lyubushkin. That physicality won’t guarantee him a starting spot in the top-six, but it will certainly put him in the NHL for at least one more season.
There isn’t a lot of offensive upside in Lybushkin, as his career high even in the KHL was 11 points in a single season. Impressively though he took only four minor penalties all season, a remarkable feat for such a physical defenseman.