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Casey Mittelstadt: a logical candidate to be the “Kirby Dach of 2024”.
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

Since Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton took over the helm of the Habs, we’ve started to see recurring patterns from the Habs management duo. For example, in each of the duo’s two off-seasons, the club has snapped up a young forward from its current roster.

It started with Kirby Dach in the summer of 2022, acquired from the Blackhawks on draft night. Then, a year later, Alex Newhook was acquired from Colorado on the eve of the draft.

And with the Habs still lacking big offensive talent in their organization, you’d think the club would like to complete a third such transaction.

Trevor Zegras has been mentioned in recent weeks, but in today’s text, Marc de Foy mentioned another name: Casey Mittelstadt.

We’re talking about the former Sabres center who was traded to the Avalanche for Bowen Byram a few weeks ago.

Obviously, when you consider that the Avalanche gave Byram away for Mittelstadt, you’d think the Colorado outfit would want to retain the services of their center forward. On the other hand, there’s a potential problem looming in Colorado: money is starting to be a scarce commodity for the 2022 champions.

As of today, the Avalanche have only $11.325 million available under the salary cap for next season… and when you look at all the players who will become free as air in a few weeks, you suspect that won’t be enough to bring everyone back.

(Credit: CapFriendly)

With Mittelstadt having a big season (52 points in 68 games), we can expect him to get a big pay rise for next season. Let’s go with a rather conservative prediction: I can’t see him signing for less than $7 million a year.

A center who scores points like that has to be paid for, especially since Mittelstadt already has five points in six games in Colorado and can continue to increase his value during the playoffs.

This is where Colorado will have to make some important decisions: is it better to pay the big price to keep Mittelstadt and let a ton of big names go… or sign more players at smaller salaries?

The case of Jonathan Drouin, for example, could tip the balance: he won’t cost as much as Mittelstadt, and his 43 points in 67 games is more than respectable. Is it better to keep Drouin and 1-2 other players, or pay Mittelstadt?

The other big question is Gabriel Landeskog’s state of health. The captain is on the LTIR right now, but if he’s ready to return, his salary will have to count against the bulk. On the other hand, if he has to miss the whole of next season, the Avalanche will have $18.325 million to spend, and keeping Mittelstadt becomes much more realistic.

But if Landeskog is ready to come back, the Avalanche could opt to trade Mittelstadt for a quality return (for example, one of the Habs’ top defensive prospects) and use the money saved to keep several other players in town.

The Habs won’t be the only ones in the running for Mittelstadt’s services if he’s available, that said, but we know the lines of communication are good between Kent Hughes and Chris MacFarland. Alex Newhook was traded, but so was Artturi Lehkonen.

So, we’ll see if another trade for a young Habs forward materializes, but at 25 (he’ll be 26 in November), Mittelstadt is ready to be an important piece in the top-6 of a team aspiring to return to the playoffs soon.

And when you consider that the Habs want players who are the same age as their core, a center who is a year older than Nick Suzuki may be more relevant than a youngster who is “behind” the rest of the core.

In bursts

– It’s going to be good for the club.

– Indeed.

– News from the Habs’ European hopefuls.

– Still.

– He’s very underrated.

– This makes no sense.

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