Grading Colorado Avalanche trades ahead of 2023-24 NHL trade deadline

The Avalanche may just have made NHL valedictorian. 

Sean Walker during his year with the Fliers
Sean Walker during his year with the Fliers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Colorado Avalanche earned an A+ for today’s major trades. It could have been an A-, but they received extra credit for turning them in two days early. 

These moves have the potential to solve the team’s biggest issue: the 2C void that went unsolved by Ryan Johansen. The lack of a powerful second-line center has plagued the Avalanche since Nazem Kadri departed in 2021. 

Ryan Johansen was traded for Philadelphia Flyer Sean Walker, while Bowen Byram was swapped for the Buffalo Sabres’ Casey Mittelestadt.

The trades certainly earned the team a passing grade, but the fact that they actually managed to gain cap space with these deals secures them the ace. Both Mittelestadt and Walker earned considerably less than Johansen and Byram.

As Buffalo’s leading scorer, Mittelstadt is the perfect fit for the 2C hole. Plus, he’s got staying power: the 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent after the season concludes.

Avalanche fans are largely relieved by Johansen’s one-way ticket to Philadelphia — during his one season in Colorado, the 2010 first-round pick did little but disappoint. It's been over two weeks since Johansen got a puck in the net, and he did so only 13 times total this season. 

The pre-draft anxiety was that it would be impossible for the Avalanche to exchange Johansen for a valuable player. But General Manager Chris MacFarland knew how to sweeten the deal, promising Philly a 2026 fifth-round pick in addition. 

Sean Walker joins Mittelstadt as a promising addition to the Avalanche’s roster. The defenseman nabbed six goals and 22 assists for Philadelphia this year. Following five forgettable years with the LA Kings, Walker had a remarkable first and last season with the Flyers. Some would say it was just a lucky run, but there is a good chance Walker can maintain his defensive potency in Colorado.

The Avalanche may just have made NHL valedictorian.