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Avalanche GM Talks Big Trades, Johansen, Kovalenko, And More Ahead Of Deadline

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Chris MacFarland was a very, very busy man on Wednesday afternoon, but the Colorado Avalanche general manager still made time to visit with the media after making two big trades earlier in the day.

Out are Bowen Byram, Ryan Johansen, and a 2025 first round pick. In is Sean Walker, Casey Mittelstadt, and a 2026 fifth round pick.

Not bad for one day’s work, and it’s no coincidence the trades happened one after the other.

“It was hard to move Bo, period. He’s an amazing human being, a great hockey player, so that’s one of the tougher things we’ve ever had to do, but definitely getting a really good defenseman in return was certainly part of the equation for us,” MacFarland said.

Over the summer, the Avalanche took a chance on Ryan Johansen being able to bounce back in a new environment, but the fact of the matter is that it didn’t work. With just 23 points and a diminishing role, Johansen had fallen out of favor in Colorado.

MacFarland knew what had to be done.

“Ryan put everything he had into it, it just wasn’t working for whatever reason,” the Avalanche GM said. “He’s a really good person, too…It wasn’t working, and we had to fix it. It demanded attention, and we felt this was the right move.”

Johansen will be replaced in the lineup by the 25 year old Mittelstadt, who will be a restricted free agent after the season. The Avalanche can control his rights for years, and that was very important for them.

“It was huge,” MacFarland said of acquiring a center who can help fix the issue long-term. “It’s obviously a premier position in the middle of the ice. Where were we getting our 2C? We do believe Calum Ritchie has that potential, but he’s still very young and we want him to cook and come when he’s ready to thrive, not survive at the NHL level. Getting a player in this age bracket with the controllability was really important. You’re not trading (Byram) unless you’re getting something that you’re really excited about in an important slot in your lineup. It was a hard decision, but we feel it was the right one.”

Colorado has made three trades in the last week, but they might not be done. The moves today actually opened up cap space for them to add players if they can down the stretch.

They’re still working the phones.

“If this ends up being all that we do, we feel that we’re better today than we were yesterday, but we’re going to leave no stone unturned and see what the next 48 hours hold,” MacFarland said.

One addition the Avalanche will make down the stretch won’t cost them a single asset.

Nikolai Kovalenko, signed over the summer to his entry-level deal, will join the team when his KHL team is eliminated from the playoffs. And it sure sounds like Colorado believes he can contribute down the stretch.

“We do believe he can (help), yes,” MacFarland said. “They’re down two games to one, as you know, and listen, it’s going to be an adjustment, right? It’s good hockey over there. He’s not a kid. He’s not 18 or 19. He’s a man. We do believe there is an NHL player in there. He’s never played over here, but we’re really excited about how he may potentially fit in the lineup. Definitely looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Other Tidbits

  • MacFarland isn’t going to say whether or not they’re trying to trade for a goaltender, but did praise Justus Annunen.
    • It’s a very small sample size, but Justus was drafted, he was really liked by our scouts, he’s been a good AHL goalie. He’s taking advantage of the opportunity that he’s been given here. Hopefully he can continue to do that, and we’re excited to see it.”
  • MacFarland didn’t sound as hopeful for a Gabriel Landeskog return, but said he’s getting the best medical care possible.
    • “There’s still lots of runway there.”
  • Valeri Nichushkin’s return is being viewed as a deadline addition, but first and foremost, they just wanted to make sure he is doing well as a person.
    • “He’s tackled the treatment the way he tackles his on-ice and off-ice conditioning. I’m proud of him. And first and foremost, hopefully he’s in a good place, which we believe he is. He’s a husband, he’s a dad, and he’s a member of our team, but we just want Val to be healthy. Bonus will be getting Val back to what he was in the fall and previous years with us. We all know his importance. He’s been a monumental piece for us and our on-ice success. So we’re all pulling for him.”
  • Obviously, Colorado believes they’ve found their second line center in Casey Mittelstadt. MacFarland discussed him a bit more.
    • “We believe so. I think he’s their leading scorer, but he’s got good hands. He’s a very good playmaking center with really good vision. We think the last two years, his game has taken a jump. He’s gotten stronger with experience, and we think there might even be another level to his game. And we think we have a very good role for him. So we’re excited to get him in the burgundy and blue and go from there.”

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