AVALANCHE

Avalanche opt for long-term solution for second-line center

Mar 6, 2024, 7:42 PM

There’s been no question of who the top center on the Colorado Avalanche is for some time. But after Nathan MacKinnon, one of the team’s biggest issues has long been who centers the second line. The team struck gold with Nazem Kadri but had to move on from him for salary cap reasons after winning the Stanley Cup.

And because of knee injuries to Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado has already been thin with their top forwards. So the last two years have been a bit of an adventure for the Avalanche filled with trial, and error and rentals. Now, general manager Chris MacFarland believes he found the solution for the team with a trade on Wednesday.

“It just wasn’t working, and we had to fix it,” MacFarland said of Ryan Johansen, who the Avalanche traded to get this summer to fill. the role. MacFarland complimented Johansen the person but his 10 points in 63 games just wasn’t enough.

Enter Casey Mittelstadt from Buffalo, in a series of moves where Colorado also landed Sean Walker from Philadelphia but had to part with Johansen, Cup-winner Bo Byram and a future first-round pick.

“If this ends up being all that we do we feel we’re better today than we were yesterday,” MacFarland said. “But we’ll leave no stone unturned. We’re breathing easier today than yesterday.”

For Colorado, they got off of Johansen’s big contract, which had another year on it. Big considering Devon Toews’ big extension kicks in this summer. And on top of that, moving on from Johansen does clear a spot for Landeskog if he’s able to make a comeback. Something MacFarland said this week is still an unknown at this point.

What is known is that Mittelstadt is on an expiring contract but he’s a restricted free agent, meaning the 25-year-old American-born forward is going to be a part of the team’s plans past this stretch run. The eighth pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Mittelstadt, has played 339 games all in Buffalo. This season, Mittelstadt has 14 goals and 33 assists, good for 47 points for the Sabres. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound center, Mittelstadt, is coming off a career year where he jumped his point production by 40, scoring 15 goals and dishing out 44 helpers.

Colorado did clear up enough cap space and keep up enough draft picks where they could in theory make another move ahead of Friday’s deadline as MacFarland alluded to. But count Mittelstadt as part of the core, at least for now.

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