Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt appeared as a trade deadline option in ESPN’s “News of the Weekes” segment Friday afternoon. The segment ran down some potential trade candidates based on information that Kevin Weekes is hearing. Mittelstadt was listed among the likes of Adam Henrique, Jakob Chychrun, Patrick Maroon, and Vladimir Tarasenko.
“They’ve taken care of all their young players with long-term deals,” Weekes stated. “They haven’t with Casey Mittelstadt.”
Mittelstadt is on the last year of a 3-year bridge contract. Meanwhile long-term deals were signed by Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Mattias Samuelsson over the last few seasons.
“So that’s why he could be the odd man out in Buffalo,” explains Weekes, who went on to add that Mittelstadt is “drawing a lot of attention as well.”
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) January 19, 2024
The Sabres center is in the middle of a career-best season, with a team-best 39 points in 45 games. He is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
While cap space isn’t currently an issue for Buffalo, things will get much tighter financially once Power’s new contract kicks in next season. He will carry an $8.35 million cap hit – much greater than his $916,667 cap hit this season.
Buffalo will also have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Peyton Krebs, Henri Jokiharju, and Jacob Bryson hitting restricted free agency next season. Luukkonen and Krebs at the very least are due for raises. Jokiharju and Bryson’s current status within the organization is still up in the air.
Pending unrestricted free agents in the organization include Victor Olofsson, Zemgus Girgensons, Kyle Okposo, Eric Robinson, Erik Johnson, Eric Comrie, and Tyson Jost.
The other discussion surrounding Mittelstadt is if what he’s doing is replaceable. There’s loads of young talent coming up through the organization.
Matthew Savoie, Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosen, and Noah Ostlund are all former first-round picks. They’re also all forwards on the cusp of becoming NHLers next season. With the way the current roster shakes out, there’s very limited spots available for them in the long-term picture.
A trade of some sort will have to be coming in the near future just to condense assets up front. Whether that trade involves Mittelstadt or not remains to be seen.
Mittelstadt Trade Appeal
What makes Mittelstadt appealing to other teams is his ability to drive offense no matter who he’s playing with. We’ve seen Sabres head coach Don Granato deploy Mittelstadt on the third line throughout the majority of the season. Granato’s also been quick to switch him to the top line to provide an offensive spark to the team.
The American center also has been leaned on throughout the season when the Sabres were faced with key injuries to their top players. He’s assumed the roles of Thompson, Cozens, and Jeff Skinner to name a few.
Mittelstadt also is showcasing his playmaking ability on the team’s top powerplay, which is something that other NHL teams highly covet.
Two of his top five most-similar players this season include playoff heroes Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Point. Those are the kind of comparisons that can “draw a lot of attention,” as Weekes put it.
Sign or Trade?
The looming question is, should the Sabres trade Mittelstadt, or, is signing him to a long-term contract the better option?
To assess that properly we’ll have to project his cost. 25 year-old centers on a 73-point full season pace don’t come around all that often. One comparable contract, however, is the one Troy Terry signed with Anaheim this past summer.
Terry was identified as a key piece to the Ducks’ future per General Manager Pat Verbeek. He inked a 7-year, $49 million deal in August. That’s a $7 million cap hit for a winger on a 71-point 82-game pace.
Mittelstadt being primarily a center, along with the salary cap increasing, could net him even more than that from the Sabres should he re-sign.
His trade value is a little tougher to predict, since it’s a game of supply and demand. TSN’s latest Trade Bait board lists three centers – none of them Mittelstadt.
Calgary’s Elias Lindholm is listed in the top spot, Montreal’s Sean Monahan is listed fourth, and the aforementioned Henrique is listed 19th. Mittelstadt is younger and cheaper then all three. He also has restricted status to his pending free agency. That means the team trading for him would retain control of his signing rights.
Undoubtedly, that means Buffalo can demand a lot more for their leading scorer as opposed to Calgary, Montreal, and Anaheim with their respective assets.
The NHL trade deadline is March 8th, so we’ll find out over the next month and a half what exactly Buffalo’s plans are for Casey Mittelstadt.