Avalanche lead way as NHL trade-deadline action heats up
5 mins read

Avalanche lead way as NHL trade-deadline action heats up

The NHL trade deadline has gotten into high gear a couple days before Friday afternoon’s deadline, so let’s roll through the highlights of what’s already gone down.

The Colorado Avalanche are splitting sixes and doubling down on them

Things looked a little weird when it hit the wires that the Avs had dumped a first-round pick and Ryan Johansen to the Flyers for d-man Sean Walker and a fifth-round pick. Not that it was weird that they waved the white flag on Johansen, whose I-might-be-bothered-once-a-month ways were never going to work in Nathan MacKinnon’s “I LIVE FOR THE NOISE” world. Johansen has been a turd pretty much ever since he signed his huge contract in Nashville, and the Avs second-line had become more of a giant sucking sound than it was last year after Nazem Kadri’s departure with RyJo on it. Reuniting him with John Tortorella in Philly, a coach who had less than no use for his bloated, half-hearted ways in Columbus, should be filmed for a new HBO sitcom to replace Curb (sadly, the Flyers are immediately putting Johansen on waivers, much to the relief of those in charge of the postgame spread). .

Still, punting him overboard (and the giant splash that would follow) for yet another d-man when the Avs top four was pretty much set seemed odd. Walker is pretty clean out of his own zone, but is hardly the jet-powered-monkey-navigated puck-mover that the Avs system kind of requires. What he is good at is standing up at his own blue line and cutting off play right there, which the Avs can definitely use to turn the play the other way quickly.

It made a lot more sense when minutes later it was announced that the Avs were sending Bowen Byram to Buffalo for Casey Mittelstadt. Byram flashed being the best rhythm guitarist in the league as a puck-mover on Colorado’s second-pairing behind lead guitarist Cale Makar on the first. But those only remained flashes thanks to some dicey health, ever-changing partners and roles, and the shifting sands of the Avs forward corps. It would appear that the Avs are lining up Walker and Deputy Samuel Girard to take the dungeon shifts against the tough opposition and free Makar and Devon Toews to go Ham on what’s left.

Mittelstadt is somehow still only 25 and is heading into restricted free-agency after this season. He had 59 points last year for the Sabres and is on the same pace this year, and could be a long-term solution as the No. 2 center that the Avs have craved. There’s a ton of skill with some pretty glaring defensive questions, though, but he does have a knack for carrying the puck into the offensive zone, which is oxygen to the Avalanche.

As for the Sabres, they seem to be amassing an entire blue line of puck-movers, which for a team that has serious defensive issues, it’s definitely a look. Buffalo certainly has young, nifty forwards for days so they can absorb the loss of Mittelstadt pretty easily. With Byram, Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin, they’re apparently going to try to answer the question, “What if the whole car was an engine?”

How about the Knights, Panthers and Oilers?

The Knights kicked things off Tuesday night by acquiring Anthony Mantha from the Caps. Mantha hasn’t been too much more than an obelisk that a team can plant in front of the other team’s net and he’ll clean up just enough loose pucks to net himself 20 goals or so. But seeing how things usually go for Vegas, you can look for Mantha to turn into the second coming of John LeClair for the rest of the season and playoffs.

The Panthers fixed their biggest hole — which is a funny statement about the league’s best team — which was second-line winger by acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko from the Senators. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett have had to play with a rotating cast of clowns for pretty much the whole season, and Tarasenko should end that. Tank is pretty much a spot-up shooter these days, but with the heavy forechecking/cycle ways of Tkachuk and Bennett that should play awfully well.

The Oilers are picking up Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick from Anaheim for a collection of draft picks, including a first this year. Henrique may be getting up there in years but can still man a second or third line from the middle. Whether the Oilers are looking to move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of the pivot on the second line and back to the first line with the titans of McDavid and Draisaitl or just shift around their third line some, we’ll have to see. 

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