Casey Mittelstadt skates this morning in Scotiabank Arena. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Stunner: Sabres trade top scorer Casey Mittelstadt to Avs for Bowen Byram

TORONTO – Sooner or later, it was going to happen. Over the past few years, as the Sabres grew into a tight-knit group, their young core remained intact. But as the team evolved and needs materialized and the salary cap became a factor again, someone would have to leave Buffalo.

This afternoon, two days before the trade deadline, it happened. The Sabres dealt center Casey Mittelstadt, a beloved teammate and their leading scorer, to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Bowen Byram.

The deal, of course, comes as a shock. Mittelstadt, 25, has been the Sabres’ best forward since late last season, and he has compiled 14 goals and 47 points in 62 games this year.

But Mittelstadt, who participated in the Sabres’ optional pregame skate prior to tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, likely priced himself out of Buffalo. As a restricted free agent following the season, he might command a hefty contract worth more than $6 million a season.

Mittelstadt, the eighth overall pick in 2017, is in the final season of a three-year, $7.5 million contract.

The Sabres have recently awarded huge deals to some of their stars and have several other talented youngsters who need new contracts in the near future.

Colorado’s offer for Mittelstadt was apparently too good to refuse. In Byram, 22, the Sabres have added another young asset to their defense corps. Byram, the fourth pick in 2019, joins Rasmus Dahlin, 23, Owen Power, 21, and Henri Jokiharju, 24, on one of the NHL’s youngest blue lines.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Byram won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2022, often playing alongside Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson late in the postseason.

Byram was sick and not expected to play tonight for the Avalanche before the deal was announced.

He battled concussions early in his NHL career and missed a few months during the 2021-22 season.

Byram, a left-handed shot, has one season left on his two-year, $7.7 million contract before he becomes a restricted free agent.

He has registered 23 goals, 63 points and 113 penalty minutes in 146 career NHL games, including eight goals, 20 points and 40 penalty minutes in 55 contests this season.

So who can fill some of the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Mittelstadt’s minutes? Well, right now, center Peyton Krebs, who has often been utilized as a checker, might move up to a scoring line.

The Sabres also have some high-end center prospects, including Jiri Kulich, who has scored 17 goals for the Rochester Americans this season, and Matt Savoie, a junior star. They both made their NHL debuts this season, playing one game for Buffalo.

However, Kulich, 19, and Savoie, 20, aren’t ready for regular NHL duty.

It will be nearly impossible to replace Mittelstadt’s production, at least right away. From March 6, 2023 entering tonight’s schedule, he recorded 19 goals and a team-high 67 points – the NHL’s 53rd-highest total – in 83 outings. His 56 even-strength points during that stretch ranked 20th in the league.

Prior to the game, the Sabres recalled winger Lukas Rousek from Rochester. Rousek, 24, has scored 10 goals and 38 points in 48 games this season. He played five contests with Buffalo earlier this year.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Leave a Reply

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