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The Colorado Avalanche were an incredibly busy team Wednesday, and they pulled off a creative trade with the Buffalo Sabres. The Avs filled an obvious need by landing Casey Mittelstadt, but they had to ship Bowen Byram to Buffalo to make that happen.

The Avs have tried a couple different centers behind Nathan MacKinnon over the last two seasons, but none of them have really stuck. In theory, Mittelstadt solves that issue, but losing a talented young player like Byram has to sting at least a little.

Buffalo is once again a seller at the trade deadline, but the team was able to get an NHL ready player who lines up with the timeline of the rebuild in return. The Sabres might wind up looking like geniuses -- as long as Byram can bounce back from a tough season on his new team.

Both of these teams did good work with one of the more intriguing trades in recent trade deadline memory, so let's break down exactly how well each side made out.

The deal

Colorado Avalanche

Ever since Nazem Kadri left the Avalanche following their Stanley Cup run in 2022, there has been a clear need for a second-line center. Over the last couple of years, the Avs have tried to fill that void with J.T. Compher and Ryan Johansen. Neither of those players worked out, and general manager Joe Sakic decided to stop playing around.

Mittelstadt may finally be the long-term solution Colorado has been searching for down the middle. A 25-year-old pending restricted free agent, Mittelstadt has really come into his own over the last two seasons. Even on a bad Buffalo Sabres team, Mittelstadt is already approaching his career highs with 14 goals and 33 assists in 62 games.

With Mittelstadt on the ice at five-on-five this season, the Sabres have controlled 51.6% of the expected goals and boast a plus-16 goal differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's a substantial upgrade over what Johansen, who was just jettisoned in a deal for Sean Walker, was able to provide in his 63 games with the Avs.

Assuming Colorado can extend Mittelstadt, he should be able to help this team win now and well into the future. As for this season, it would be interesting to see what Mittelstadt could do with the speedy Logan O'Connor on his wing in the playoffs.

Of course, the Avalanche didn't pick up Mittestadt for free. They did have to take a calculated risk by shipping out Bowen Byram, who could become a stud on the blueline. Byram was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 draft, and he has shown the potential to be an elite NHL defenseman. I'm sure Sakic didn't love the idea of giving up such a skilled young player, but he already has Cale Makar and Devon Toews under contract through 2026-27.

Byram has a high ceiling, and there's a chance the Avs will regret letting him go, but they probably won't mind as long as Mittelstadt becomes a consistent producer on the second line. There is no question Colorado's lineup looks stronger after this move. Grade -- B+

Buffalo Sabres

Because of his expiring contract, Mittelstadt was always going to be a trade candidate in Buffalo, assuming he didn't sign an extension. Obviously, that extension never came, and the Sabres chose to get a young NHL ready player instead of draft picks or prospects.

That was probably the right move, especially given where the Sabres are in the rebuild and the pedigree of the player they got in return. If Buffalo couldn't keep Mittelstadt around, landing Byram was a solid consolation prize. Not only is he three years younger than Mittelstadt, but Byram also has one more year on his current contract. He also might have the higher ceiling of the two players.

In Byram's rookie season, he put on a show in the 2022 NHL playoffs, helping the Avs win the Stanley Cup. He boasted a 63.6% expected goals share and plus-14 goal differential at five-on-five while notching nine assists in 20 games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That looked like the start of a legendary career, but Byram has failed to reach those heights since then.

Over the last two seasons, Byram has struggled to find his footing. His five-on-five impacts have dipped, but Byram has still been able to chip in on offense. Byram has a combined 18 goals and 26 assists in 97 games since the start of the 2022-23 season, so he can still contribute on a regular basis, but his overall performance has been somewhat disappointing.

Mittelstadt has become a key member of Buffalo's lineup, so parting with him couldn't have been an easy decision for general manager Kevyn Adams, but Byram is more than a worthwhile gamble. If Byram winds up finding his groove in Buffalo, the Sabres will have Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and Byram patrolling the blue line. That could be the start of a championship-caliber defensive corps. Grade -- B