According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Arizona Coyotes have taken care of a pair of restricted free agents, signing Kyle Capobianco and Ilya Lyubushkin. The former has signed a two-year contract that will carry an average annual value of $775K, while the latter has inked just a one-year deal worth $1MM.
Capobianco, 23, was the 63rd overall pick in 2015 but has spent almost his entire professional career in the minor leagues to this point. Since leaving the junior ranks in 2017, the puck-moving defenseman has played just 12 games at the NHL level, recording a single point. In the AHL though, Capobianco has been a star, registering 88 points in 135 games and twice taking part in the league’s All-Star festivities. The question now will be whether he can ever translate that minor league success to the NHL, but he’ll get two years to try before his next contract negotiation.
It’s Lyubushkin that is the more interesting signing, after his second year in North America finished much like the first. The 26-year-old defenseman was signed out of the KHL in 2018 and has now played in 92 NHL games without registering a single goal. In fact, Lyubushkin has scored just four points in each of his two seasons for Arizona. Despite those paltry offensive numbers, the big defenseman is still a positive player for the team thanks to strong defensive instincts and a physical presence that is unmatched on their roster. The 6’2″ Lyubushkin easily led all Arizona defenders in hits with 151 this season, despite playing in only 51 of the team’s 70 games.
Unlike Capobianco, who will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires, Lyubushkin will be able to test the UFA waters next offseason. His one-year deal takes him to age-27, at which point he’ll be able to hit the open market if he chooses. Amazingly, that lines up with four other Arizona defenders, meaning that new GM Bill Armstrong can reshape his blue line however he wants before the 2021-22 season. Lyubushkin joins Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, and Jordan Oesterle as pending 2021 unrestricted free agents.