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Grading the Big Deadline Deals For The Avalanche

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Chris MacFarland felt the stars on his Colorado Avalanche squad deserved to have him push his chips into the middle of the table, so he did exactly that last week, orchestrated four deals to load up his team heading into the playoffs.

They weren’t all small deals, either. The two big ones that took place on Wednesday last week could almost be considered one giant deal, because I don’t think one happens without the other. A few days later, MacFarland brought in a few more depth forwards, which makes a lot more sense considering the news we got yesterday.

I waited a few days for this, mostly because the craziness of last week wore me out, but let’s dig into the deals and grade them.

Avalanche Trade Their 2025 1st Round Pick and Ryan Johansen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Sean Walker

The Avalanche simply don’t move Bowen Byram unless they have a deal in place for Sean Walker. If you’re going to move a top five defenseman and you intend to make a Stanley Cup run, you need to replace them immediately, so Chris MacFarland was thinking ahead here.

Sean Walker is exactly what the Avalanche need. He’s a right shot, and as the season goes on, I can see him taking PK minutes away from Cale Makar, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s also a fantastic skater, which we saw a few times in his first game. There also happens to be a little bit of physicality to his game, which never hurts. Perfect fit for the system, and I could easily see Colorado try to bring him back after the season. If Colorado wants to, they have five defensemen they can roll out there for 17-22 minutes a night.

As for the return, I think it’s clear the Avalanche paid a premium to get rid of the Ryan Johansen contract. I don’t blame them one bit for doing so, as I called his acquisition a failure about a month ago, but it’s still a tough look in terms of asset management. They got him for nothing, but had to give up a 1st just to get rid of him in the trade.

I had a feeling Colorado was going to be moving a 1st round pick at the deadline, and it being the 2025 pick just shows you what people think of the 2024 NHL Draft. Everything I’ve read makes it seem like there’s a huge drop-off towards the back half of the first, and that’s where Colorado will be picking. No other team gave up a 1st for a defenseman, but there are unique circumstances involved in this deal. However, those circumstances were created because Johansen was never a player that fit the way Colorado likes to play. This deal probably looks different otherwise.

Trade Grade: B+ – Walker fits how the Colorado wants to play to a tee, but in order to dump the Johansen contract, Colorado had to move a 1st, which no other team did for a defenseman.

Avalanche Trade Bowen Byram To The Buffalo Sabres For Casey Mittelstadt

I don’t think it ever got to the point where Bowen Byram asked for a trade, but I do think it was fairly obvious that he was “stuck” in Colorado after the Devon Toews extension. He probably saw that as well. There was no chance of him becoming a top pairing defenseman, and that’s a role he wants. I don’t blame him for that. He wasn’t getting top pairing minutes, and certainly not top powerplay minutes, so you would have to think that eventually his value would start to dwindle a bit as he gets a little older.

On that note, it was a good idea to move him now when his value is still high and you can get a great return. You can’t deny that he wasn’t having a good season, but the team still believed in his talent. That’s what makes this deal so fun. Neither team really wanted to trade their guy, but they were moving players from a position of strength and improving on a weakness.

Casey Mittelstadt is exactly what the Avalanche need. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes a few games for it to click here. He’s such an intelligent and creative player that not everyone will be able to read what he’s doing right away. That takes time and some reps to develop, but he has worked hard to develop his all-around game and he’s what this organization needs.

The best part of it all is that he’s not a rental. The Avalanche didn’t go out and put another band-aid on the situation. They found someone that can stick around for a while and form a really interesting 1-2 punch down the middle. Let’s not forget that his addition means the Avalanche can play Ross Colton in a 3C role, which is what they’ve wanted to do all year. That should only help his game.

Trade Grade: A – Both teams got creative and took a risk to fill a need. The types of trades the league needs more of.

Avalanche Trade Their 2026 3rd Round Pick To Minnesota For Brandon Duhaime

Of the four “big” trades the Avalanche made, this is the one that confused me a bit and felt unnecessary. Not that Duhaime can’t help the team, but Trenin is a better player, so this felt like overkill.

After the Logan O’Connor news yesterday, it makes a heck of a lot more sense.

I could easily see Duhaime being the extra guy who steps in here and there down the stretch and in the playoffs, kind of like what Colorado did with Nico Sturm back in 2022. That has value. Duhaime knows what he is as a player. He’ll throw his body around and can fill in on the penalty kill, but he’s essentially a fourth liner. Is a 3rd round pick a bit excessive? Possibly, but it’s also a 2026 3rd rounder, so we’re talking about a 15/16 year old right now. That draft pick is years away from contributing, if it ever does.

Trade Grade: B- – maybe a bit too much for a depth forward, but nothing that will hurt you in the long run.

Avalanche Trade Jeremy Hanzel and Their 2025 3rd Round Pick To Nashville For Yakov Trenin

I really like Jeremy Hanzel’s game, and after speaking with his coach last summer, he seems like an incredible person as well. That being said, he’s a bit of a long shot to make it to the NHL, like most late round picks, and the Avalanche don’t have a ton of prospects to move around, so he had to be thrown into the deal. The 3rd round pick, again, is a long shot, especially given Colorado’s drafting history, but it’s still a relatively high pick, so it has value.

Trenin is a big guy, has played well in the playoffs before, and kills penalties. He is a legit 3rd/4th liner in this league, and there might be some value to him off the ice as well. He said he’s from the same town as Valeri Nichushkin, and their lockers are right next to each other at Ball Arena already. The folks over at Nashville Hockey Now have also let me know that Trenin was a mentor to young Russians on the Predators. The Avalanche just so happen to have a young Russian joining them in the near future, so that could be very helpful for them.

The question will be whether or not he’s a center. Colorado still has to figure out who will be the 4C come playoff time, and they don’t seem to have a natural fit there. I’m guessing they’ll try a handful of players there down the stretch, and Trenin will be one of them.

Trade Grade: B – solid pickup who I could see the Avalanche try to keep around

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