Bowen Byram - Casey Mittelstadt trade grade

The NHL trade deadline saw an intriguing swap between the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres. The Avalanche, gearing up for another Stanley Cup run, acquired center Casey Mittelstadt in exchange for promising young defenseman Bowen Byram.

Let’s dive into the details and implications of this deal.

Avalanche Fill Hole at Center

Colorado had a glaring need for center depth behind Nathan MacKinnon. With injuries and the departures of key forwards like Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky in recent years, the Avs were thin down the middle.

Enter Casey Mittelstadt. The 25-year-old is enjoying a career year in Buffalo, leading the Sabres with 47 points in 62 games. A gifted playmaker with great vision, Mittelstadt should slot in nicely as the Avs’ second line center. His creativity and puck skills will mesh well with skilled wingers like Valeri Nichushkin and Evan Rodrigues.

While Mittelstadt lacks playoff experience, his talent is undeniable. The 8th overall pick in 2017 took longer than expected to blossom, but he’s coming into his own now. With a change of scenery and the opportunity to play meaningful games, Mittelstadt could elevate his game to another level.

Sabres Bet on Byram’s Upside

For Buffalo, acquiring Bowen Byram is a gamble on elite potential. The 4th overall pick in 2019, Byram was touted as a future star. An incredible skater with offensive instincts, he projected as a top-pair defenseman who could quarterback a power play.

However, Byram’s development has been slowed by injuries, especially concussions. He’s suited up for just 55 games this year, a career-high. When healthy, Byram has flashed tantalizing skill. But he hasn’t been able to stay on the ice consistently.

Still just 21 years old, Byram has plenty of time to reach his ceiling. On a rising Sabres team with a wealth of young defensive talent like Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, Byram won’t be rushed. If he can stay healthy, his dynamic abilities could be a huge boost for Buffalo’s blue line.

Avs Bolster Roster for Repeat Bid

Beyond Mittelstadt, Colorado also added defenseman Sean Walker from Philadelphia, shipping out Ryan Johansen in the process. These moves, in totality, make the Avalanche a better team today than they were yesterday.

Mittelstadt provides a big upgrade at 2C, while Walker replaces some of Byram’s minutes on the back end. With those holes plugged, the Avs are well-positioned to challenge for another championship. They may have sacrificed some long-term upside in Byram, but the focus is clearly on winning now.

Sabres Build for the Future

For Buffalo, this trade is more about the years ahead. In a perfect world, Byram becomes the Sabres’ second-best defenseman behind Dahlin for the next decade. His skating and puck-moving ability would be a perfect complement.

The Sabres are flush with young centers in Dylan Cozens, Peyton Krebs and Tyson Jost, so Mittelstadt was expendable. Swapping him for Byram is a bet on elite talent, one that could pay off hugely if Byram reaches his potential and stays healthy.

The Verdict

In the end, both teams addressed needs with this trade. Colorado gets better for this year’s playoff push, while Buffalo adds another high-upside piece to its future core. Mittelstadt should be a great fit for the Avalanche’s top-six, while Byram could become a cornerstone defenseman for the Sabres.

If forced to pick a winner, the slight edge goes to Buffalo. Byram’s ceiling is immense, and getting a player of his caliber for Mittelstadt is strong asset management by GM Kevyn Adams. The Sabres are building something special.

But the Avalanche achieved their goal too, bolstering their roster for another Cup run. Only time will tell which team ultimately benefits more from this fascinating swap of young talent.