Avalanche acquire Casey Mittelstadt, Sean Walker in trades

Casey Mittelstadt scores the power-play goal (0:48)

Casey Mittelstadt scores the power-play goal (0:48)

The Colorado Avalanche got ahead of the NHL trade deadline rush, acquiring forward Casey Mittelstadt from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Bowen Byram.

That was one of two swaps the Avalanche made Wednesday after picking up defenseman Sean Walker and a 2026 fifth-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Ryan Johansen and a 2025 first-round draft pick that is top-10 protected.

Teams have until Friday at 3 p.m. ET to fine-tune their rosters before the deadline passes.

Mittelstadt, 25, was the eighth overall choice by Buffalo in the 2017 draft and has evolved into a dynamic two-way skater with high-end playmaking ability. He put up dazzling performances in 2022-23 while collecting 15 goals and 59 points in 82 games and carried that success into this season (14 goals, 47 points in 62 games).

He has been an integral piece of the Sabres' power play as well and clocked the highest average 5-on-5 ice-time per game among Buffalo's forwards this year (15:37).

This is the final season of Mittelstadt's three-year, $7.5 million contract, and he'll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Buffalo has already invested a majority of its cap space in long-term deals for other rising stars -- including Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens -- making it likely Mittelstadt would be the odd man out and not get his own major extension with the club.

For Byram, the trade to Buffalo is a fresh start. Drafted fourth overall in 2019 by the Avalanche, Byram, 22, has dealt with injuries and inconsistencies that slowed his overall progress. He has tallied 23 goals and 63 points in 146 NHL games thus far and will now join a Sabres' blue line filled with up-and-coming talents such as Dahlin, Owen Power and Mattias Samuelsson.

Meanwhile, Colorado's back end is getting a major veteran boost. Walker, 29, has made the most of his first season with the Flyers, on pace for career-best numbers with six goals and 22 points in 63 games to date while averaging over 19 minutes per night. That production -- coupled with Walker's team-friendly one-year deal worth $2.65 million -- made him a coveted deadline target, and Colorado couldn't wait until then to pounce.

The Avalanche project to be an ideal landing spot for Walker. He's a solid puck-carrying defenseman who can play at a high pace offensively, is good in transition and contributes off the rush. Walker has also been one of Philadelphia's top penalty killers this season (he has also scored twice shorthanded), and Colorado can use him in a second- or third-pairing role, offering them increased flexibility into the postseason.

While the Flyers accepted Johansen as part of their Walker deal with Colorado, Philadelphia immediately placed the veteran forward on waivers. Johansen, 31, was in his first season with the Avalanche after being traded there from Nashville in June, and it was never a strong fit. Johansen shuffled around the lineup and added just 13 goals and 23 points in 63 games. He still has one more year remaining on an eight-year, $64 million contract.

The Avalanche, who won the Stanley Cup in 2022, still have their eye on winning now. After exchanging their 2025 first-round choice for Walker, Colorado holds just four selections total in the first four rounds of the 2024 and 2025 entry drafts.