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Morgan Rielly Excited to Play With Ilya Lyubushkin Again

When Ilya Lyubushkin was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Morgan Riley was excited. Why does he look forward to playing with the Bear?

Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin. Known as the ‘Russian Bear,’ this is not the first time he’s popped into the team’s lineup. The last time was near the trade deadline when he came to the team from the Arizona Coyotes. He almost immediately was partnered with Morgan Rielly. And, insofar as I recall, the partnership worked well.

When the news of Lyubushkin’s return hit the ears of Rielly, he was excited. Specifically, he was quoted as saying, “I don’t know when he gets in but the sooner the better.” There seems to be no doubt that Rielly is eager to reunite with his old defensive partner on the ice.

Related: Maple Leafs Still Like Another Defenseman After Lyubushkin Trade

The Maple Leafs Are in Desperate Need of a Right-Shot Defenseman

The Maple Leafs not only need to bolster their defensive lineup, but they also need a right-handed defenseman. When Mark Giordano was injured, it didn’t take Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving any time at all to get on the horn and make the Lyubushkin trade a reality. He’ll be the third defenseman from the recent Anaheim Ducks roster on the team.

Last season’s Ducks had John Klingberg and Simon Benoit on their. Klingberg is injured but Benoit has enjoyed a solid season with the Maple Leafs. There’s hope that Lyubushkin will be the second reclamation project from Anaheim to move to the Ontario capital. Several hockey experts were disparaging of Benoit’s arrival, but he turned out great. Now a number are also disparaging of Lyubushkin’s return. It could be they’ll be surprised, as well.

Rielly Noted the Russian Bear’s Physicality and Team-First Play

Rielly remembers Lyubushkin well and he expects Lyubushkin’s arrival to bring solid effort and play to the team. He notes the Bear’s physicality, competitiveness, and team-first mentality as valuable assets that will enhance the Maple Leafs’ defense.

The question now is whether Lyubushkin will be able to make it for Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers. There are some logistical considerations such as visa arrangements that could delay his immediate integration into the lineup. However, the Maple Leafs are hopeful for a smooth transition upon his arrival in Toronto.

Iyla Samsonov Maple Leafs
Iyla Samsonov and the Maple Leafs are happy to have the Bear back.

Interestingly. Lyubushkin has a good friend on the Maple Leafs roster. That’s goalie Ilya Samsonov, who shares a close friendship was forged through shared experiences off the ice. The newcomer should feel at home in the Maple Leafs’ locker room.

Lyubushkin Fits in Toronto and Should Become a Solid Addition

Lyubushkin’s addition to the Maple Leafs lineup is a strategic move that should help the team’s defense. He plays a simple game, but he can move the puck, disrupt plays, and deny entries into the defensive zone. The Bear can also play on the penalty kill. He should be able to provide flexibility and stability to the lineup.

Lyubushkin’s return is the reunion with a valued teammate in Rielly. It’s also a step forward in building a stronger defensive core. One thing we know after the trade. It’s that Rielly eagerly awaits Lyubushkin’s return. That says about as much as one could want to know about what the team thinks about the newcomer.

Related: Returning Joseph Woll Makes Instant Statement for Maple Leafs

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