Since the Buffalo Sabres are still trapped near the bottom of the NHL points standings and Casey Mittelstadt is the one star player in the final year of his current contract, he makes for a textbook trade candidate. But trading him makes no sense, considering the fact general manager Kevyn Adams has enough cap space to ink him to a long-term deal, and that Buffalo isn’t in the “tear down and rebuild” phase.
Sure, they are having a bad season, but it shouldn’t give them the green light to trade away a player who has been their best forward in 2023-24, even if Mittelstadt, at this point, would warrant more than just sound compensation. If the Sabres were in San Jose’s position, or Anaheim’s, then yeah, the trade makes sense because they would be rebuilding to contend a few seasons from today.
But the Sabres, despite being the league’s youngest team, aren’t in that position. One reason they have a pedestrian points total is that they aren’t consistent at finding ways to win when their “score four goals a game” mentality fails, something that has happened a lot this season.
That will alleviate in time and it comes with experience. So trading a player who could easily remain part of the team’s core on at least a bridge deal if Adams chooses not to sign Mittelstadt long-term would be counterintuitive.
Trading Casey Mittelstadt would be a massive mistake for the Buffalo Sabres
You may endorse a trade because it will open up things for high-end prospects like Jiri Kulich, who is NHL-ready and he may have more upside than Mittelstadt. But we need to remember that the Sabres will likely move on from forwards Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, and that alone will open up a spot for Kulich starting in 2024-25.
We also know Victor Olofsson will be gone, perhaps even at the deadline, and the Sabres also have no obligation to keep Eric Robinson around following the season considering the low compensation they traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Again, the cap space is there to keep Mittelstadt long-term should Adams choose to go in that direction, and the Buffalo Sabres will still have more than enough room for the likes of Kulich and Isak Rosen.
Trading Mittelstadt means sending someone who has been one of the NHL’s best overall players over the past calendar year elsewhere. And for a team that is not tearing things down and starting over, making such a move is nothing short of illogical.
This is a team that must simply learn to win when games aren’t going their way, and they will be fine. There is stability in Buffalo regardless of what the points total says, and Mittelstadt has been the biggest part of that stability since January 2023 for a team that doesn’t need compensation in the form of early-round picks and high-end prospects.