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Colorado Avalanche acquire Casey Mittelstadt, Sean Walker to bolster Stanley Cup bid

It’s become incredibly rare for teams to executive bona fide hockey trades, with the Sabres and Avalanche bucking the trend by swapping a forward for a defenceman.

Casey Mittelstadt, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Image: Buffalo Sabres)

The Colorado Avalanche reinforced their championship aspirations on Wednesday [6 March], acquiring Casey Mittelstadt and Sean Walker in separate trades with the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers.

Mittelstadt joins the Avalanche from Buffalo and was traded in a one-for-one swap in exchange for defenceman Bowen Byram.

Walker was acquired from the Flyers, with a conditional first-round pick in 2025, and Ryan Johanson sent to Philadelphia.

Mittelstadt is expected to slot into Colorado’s line-up as the second-line centreman, adding much-needed depth according to general manager Chris MacFarland.

“We believe [he will fit in that role],” he said. “I think he’s their leading scorer, but he’s got good hands. He’s a very good playmaking centre with really good vision. We think the last two years, his game has taken a jump.

“He’s gotten stronger with experience, and we think there might even be another level to his game. And we think we have a very good role for him. So, we’re excited to get him in the burgundy and blue and go from there.”

Walker, a pending unrestricted free agent, will take Byram’s place on the blueline, with the Avalanche preparing for another Stanley Cup chase.

“It was certainly part of the equation,” MacFarland said when asked if Walker was acquired to replace Byram. “It would have been really, really hard to do, to move ‘Bo.’ It was hard to move Bo, period. He’s an amazing human being, and a great hockey player. So that’s one of the tougher things we’ve ever had to do. But definitely getting a really good defenseman in return was certainly part of the equation for us, yes.”

Why did the Colorado Avalanche swap Bowen Byram for Casey Mittelstadt?

It’s become incredibly rare for teams to executive bona fide hockey trades at the deadline, with the Sabres and Avalanche swapping a forward for a defenceman.

Colorado made the difficult decision to part ways with Byram, a highly-touted defenceman they drafted and developed, because they had a massive hole in the middle of their line-up.

The Avalanche have been short of centre depth all season, with many expecting the Denver-based outfit to acquire a pure rental at the deadline.

However, they were beaten to a number of coveted short-term options – the latest example being Adam Henrique – and pivoted to Mittlestadt, who will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

On the one hand, Mittelstadt is a risky bet – he has zero playoff experience.

Casey Mittelstadt, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Image: Buffalo Sabres)

Casey Mittelstadt, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Image: Buffalo Sabres)

On the other hand, the 25-year-old is a former eighth-overall pick with 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) in 61 appearances this season.

Mittelstadt was a consistent performer in Buffalo, leapfrogging Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Alex Tuch to become the Sabres’ leading scorer.

The Canadian isn’t a like-for-like replacement to Nazem Kadri, the second-line centreman who helped Colorado win the cup two seasons back, but his skill set should mesh quickly with whichever wingers head coach Jared Bednar plays him with.

Will the Colorado Avalanche miss Bowen Byram?

It’s a shame for the Avalanche to lose Byram – but their blueline is more than talented enough to handle his departure.

With Cale Makar and Devon Towes committed to the franchise long-term, Byram – who has never played a full season due to injury – was never going to become a top-pair defender in Colorado.

Walker is an adequate short-term replacement for Byram, with his core skills a perfect fit for the Avalanche.

MacFarland loves skilful puck-movers and Walker is exactly that.

Sean Walker, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Image: Philadelphia Flyers)

Sean Walker, now of the Colorado Avalanche (Image: Philadelphia Flyers)

While there are questions about his ability to cope in rough and tumble playoff scenarios, he is expected to eat second pair minutes down the stretch.

Ultimately, the Avalanche replaced Byram and Johansen for Mittelstadt and Walker – moves that greatly improve their roster on paper.

Colorado will once again challenge for the Stanley Cup.

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