The Arizona Coyotes have loaned defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin back to his old KHL club, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, until NHL training camps open in a few months. Lyubushkin signed a new contract with the Coyotes earlier this month and is expected to challenge for a full-time roster spot in 2020-21. For now, he’ll go back to the place that put him on NHL radars in the first place.
Undrafted, Lyubushkin worked his way up the depth chart with Lokomotiv, playing five seasons in the KHL before signing an NHL contract in 2018. The 26-year-old provides almost no offense—he is still looking for his first NHL goal, 92 games in—but does represent a physical presence that is basically unmatched in Arizona. Even while playing in only 51 of the team’s 70 games and averaging just over 14 minutes a night this season, he led all defenders in hits with 151.
When he signed his one-year contract, he joined four other defensemen on the roster that will become unrestricted free agents in the 2021 offseason. Lyubushkin, Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers and Jordan Oesterle are all on expiring deals, meaning if new GM Bill Armstrong wants to shake up the roster there will be an obvious opportunity on the blue line.
Lybushkin meanwhile will get a chance to go back to the organization that developed him, even if it is on a short-term loan. He played more than 300 games in the KHL before coming over, recording nearly 400 penalty minutes in the process.