Rasmus Dahlin (left) likes playing with Bowen Byram (center) but misses Casey Mittelstadt, his close friend. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin sad to see Casey Mittelstadt leave in trade, excited by Bowen Byram’s arrival

BUFFALO – It stinks, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said, using a stronger word to describe his feelings. His close friend, center Casey Mittelstadt, is gone, having been traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

Make no mistake, Dahlin likes the addition of Bowen Byram, his new defense partner, and is happy for Mittelstadt, who joined a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Still, it hasn’t been easy. On Monday, following the Sabres’ first practice without Mittelstadt, a beloved teammate, Dahlin felt his absence.

“I couldn’t be more happy for him,” he said after the Sabres prepared for Tuesday’s game against the reeling Detroit Red Wings in KeyBank Center. “But to not see him every day and to be able to talk to him every day, it’s not fun.”

Then Dahlin, 23, paused briefly.

“Yeah, it’s starting to sink in (he’s gone) and it sucks, honestly,” he said.

Change, of course, was inevitable. While the Sabres have inched within seven points of the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot, they haven’t met expectations this season.

General manager Kevyn Adams had spent about two years searching for another dynamic young defenseman and in Mittelstadt, his leading scorer, he had an asset to land Byram.

So Mittelstadt, 25, became the first member of the Sabres’ tight-knit young core to leave town.

“It’s a young group that hasn’t had lots of experience like building rosters and improving rosters and targeting needs and advancing the team forward, and this is part of it,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “… It’s another experience gained for guys in the room as you go through something like that. It’s part of the business.”

Trading young players is just one part of a complicated business.

On Friday, hours before the deadline, Adams dealt captain Kyle Okposo to the Florida Panthers, giving the respected veteran an opportunity to pursue a championship in what could be his final season.

Those significant moves would jolt any team.

Dahlin said it has been a “weird couple days here.” Mittelstadt and Okposo had been his teammates throughout his six-year career.

Adams called Dahlin during his pregame nap before Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs to tell him he had traded Mittelstadt. The Swede couldn’t fall back asleep after hearing the news.

“He’s such a big part of this group, so the mood in the team was difficult,” Dahlin said. “But we got a great player instead, so it was really good after that.”

Dahlin couldn’t say goodbye to either of his friends in person.

“It feels like they just went on vacation and they’re coming back but they’re not,” he said. “So a lot of young guys get opportunities to step up and show their leadership, so it’s wide open … and it’s gonna be really good here in the future.”

The 12th-place Sabres, however, still have a chance this season. The odds are low they’ll crack the playoffs – just 1.9 percent as of Monday afternoon, according to sportsclubstats.com – but a strong week could vault them into the thick of the chase.

Entering Monday’s schedule, the eighth-place New York Islanders, who played a late road game against the Los Angeles Kings, owned the last playoff spot. The Islanders and Red Wings each had 72 points.

The Sabres host the Islanders on Thursday and play the Red Wings again Saturday afternoon in Detroit. The Sabres also play April 7 in Detroit.

They can make up some ground in the coming days.

“We know how big this week is, playing the teams we compete against,” Dahlin said. “It’s going to be fun. No one really believed that we could be in this position.”

Byram’s arrival has transformed the defense into the Sabres’ deepest position. In his first two outings, he has quickly showcased why Adams paid such a high price to acquire him.

His presence alongside Dahlin has given the Sabres fresh looks.

They’ve spent the last two games skating on the top power-play unit together. Prior to Byram’s arrival, the Sabres utilized four forwards and one defenseman on the man advantage.

In Saturday afternoon’s 3-2 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers, Granato started overtime with Byram, Dahlin and one forward. Two forwards usually play in the three-on-three session.

Despite enjoying a regular role in Colorado and having won a Cup in 2022, Byram, the fourth overall pick in 2019, welcomes a fresh start in Buffalo.

Sabres centers Dylan Cozens and Peyton Krebs are two of his closest friends, so he instantly has some familiarity.

“It starts with the people I know here, a couple of my best friends, which make me really excited to come here,” said Byram, who registered one goal and two points in his debut Thursday, a 4-2 road loss to the Nashville Predators.

On the ice, the Sabres envision a larger role for Byram. While it’s a small sample size, he has averaged 25 minutes, 22 seconds of ice time in his first two games. In his career in Colorado, he averaged 19 minutes, 55 second per outing.

“Just a chance to kind of take on a bigger role, I think, really excited me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well so far.”

Sabres winger Jordan Greenway, who missed Saturday’s game after Dahlin high-sticked him in the face Thursday, is expected to play against Detroit.

“The last game I just felt like I needed a game,” said Greenway, who’s sporting stitches above his lip.

One thought on “Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin sad to see Casey Mittelstadt leave in trade, excited by Bowen Byram’s arrival”

  1. I really disliked this trade at first, as I was sick of past choruses of “trade Mittelstadt”, as he was one of the few players having a great season. He improved weak areas of his game every season, and I believe he will succeed with the Avalanche. I’m glad he didn’t end up on a team in our division. I didn’t know anything about Byram. I do believe now it was a good trade. At least both Mittelstadt and Okposo should get to be in the playoffs. Change is inevitable, and the Sabres played a very good game against the Oilers. I’m not optimistic about the Sabres making the playoffs, but the first year the Bills finally made the playoffs was due to the unlikely scenario of the Ravens losing to the Bengals, yet that is what happened. So there’s always a chance, especially if they keep playing like they have been recently. I thought Thompson playing in spite of him not being 100% showed some admirable determination, an example of what’s needed if the Sabres are to contend for a playoff position. Hopefully the changes will serve to stimulate all the Sabres to compete consistently on a higher level

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *