While the Trade Deadline has started early, seeing Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan on the move over a month ahead of the deadline. Other teams eyeing center help have started to widen their search. One name that has hit the rumors recently and also mentioned in a recent 32 Thoughts Podcast is Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt.
While Adam Henrique and Nic Dowd have also been mentioned recently, Mittelstadt could create an interesting blockbuster at the deadline.
Who is Casey Mittelstadt, & Why Would Buffalo Trade Him?
Casey Mittelstadt – 25 years old, RFA(with arbitration rights) at season’s end; $2.5m AAV contract this season. Mittelstadt currently has 42 points in 51 games(12 goals and 30 assists). At the time this article was written.
You look at the stats and the contract and immediately think, “You’d be insane to trade that player.” Then you peel back the book on the Buffalo Sabres and look at the center depth alone. Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, and Peyton Krebs are on the current roster, while Matthew Savoie is waiting in Rochester for his chance in the NHL.
Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens are both signed long-term in Buffalo. Peyton Krebs is about to be a restricted free agent, just like Mittelstadt. Krebs is coming off his entry-level contract and was a primary return of the Jack Eichel trade. Matthew Savoie was the Sabres’ first-round pick in 2022.
With the depth at the position and the Sabres need for additions on the blueline and between the pipes, Mittelstadt looks like the odd man out in Buffalo.
How does Mittelstadt fit in Boston?
While it’s evident that Boston needs help down the middle, that need increased with the Poitras injury. I had previously written my belief that Don Sweeney needs to shake things up and make a splash; this could be the best opportunity and fit for Sweeney to make it happen.
Mittelstadt’s age makes him a perfect fit for the Boston Bruins’ “next” core. After being a slow player to develop, things may have finally clicked over Mittelstadt’s last couple of seasons. He scored 59 points in 82 games last season and is having a great start to the 2023-24 season.
The No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft was an offensive force in high school, the USHL and college hockey, but has struggled to put up points in the NHL. Is a creative playmaker with good hands who can play center or wing. Needs to get stronger, pick up a half-step or so in his skating and refine his 200-foot game to become the player his performance at lower levels suggest he can be.Scouting Report via Sports Forecaster
One of the most significant failures in Sweeney’s tenure is not being able to replace a bonafide top-tier center for the future. Currently, the Bruins have three NHL-ready centers: Coyle, Zacha, and Geekie. You can argue for Poitras, but he’s a rookie; let’s hold off on expectations. None of those names mentioned are going to be hot in a scoring race. Mittelstadt would be 4th in scoring on the Bruins behind Pastrnak, Marchand, and Coyle.
Sweeney’s addition of Mittelstadt would instantly add a skilled top-six center to your lineup and slot Coyle back to the third line, ultimately leading the Bruins to past success.
What could it cost?
Any team acquiring Mittelstadt must think of two different costs. The cost to acquire and the cost to sign him long-term. With his contract expiring at the end of the season and two years of high offensive production, he will surely get a significant raise from his $2.5m AAV. I could see a market value for Mittelstadt in the $6-7m AAV category, especially with the salary cap on the rise.
During the recent Elias Lindholm sweepstakes, Elliotte Friedman reported a secondary team on Lindholm that was dependent on the player signing an extension with the team. He leaned toward Boston as being a likely team in that scenario. After spending heavily at last year’s deadline for pure rentals, Sweeney should be hesitant to spend first-round picks or high-end assets for a rental player. That’s where Mittelstadt’s team control, though arbitration-eligible, is more desirable for the Boston Bruins.
The trade cost is pure speculation at this point, as Buffalo is still in the “actively listening” standpoint. But, for argument’s sake, I see this trade as a two to three-piece deal.
To Buffalo Sabres:
D Matt Grzelcyk
2025 First Round Pick
(Insert Prospect Here)
To Boston Bruins:
F Casey Mittelstadt
Boston is currently nowhere near being a top-ten protected pick. The 2024 first-round pick is all but destined for Detroit. This leaves Boston with a 2025 or 2026 first-round pick at their disposal. With Buffalo coming out of the rebuild, they’re likely not concerned about a 2026 pick. The Boston Bruins 2025 first-round pick makes the MOST sense in a package. Buffalo would likely be looking to package that pick to address their goaltending.
As for Grzelcyk being involved, the Sabres are very thin on the blueline outside of Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power. In addition to the two I mentioned, Connor Clifton is the only other Sabres defenseman signed “long-term.” Kevyn Adams has been looking for a veteran presence to fit on his blue line. Would Grzelcyk be a young enough “veteran” to help guide the young Buffalo defensive core into the future?
Ultimately, this deal could hinge on one thing. Can each team have some certainty they can sign the incoming player long-term? Mittelstadt and Grzelcyk are on expiring deals, but if the teams knew the player coming back would be around long-term, this trade would work nicely for both team’s needs.