Sabres Need to Move on From Casey Mittelstadt

The Buffalo Sabres concluded their western road trip with a record of 3-1-0 and showed a lot of promise along the way. The offense was dynamic, the goaltending was rock solid, and the defense was good enough for all except the last game against the Seattle Kraken. In that game, the Sabres were blown out 5-1 and it came from a combination of the defense falling apart, and the offense failing to convert on any of their chances. Late in the game, they had a goal called back on them which would have brought the game to 4-2 and changed the momentum in their favor. This would have been Jack Quinn’s first goal of the season, but the play was deemed offside due to a complete lack of effort from Casey Mittelstadt. He was not yet outside of the offensive zone before he stopped skating for a line change and then five minutes later, the Kraken sealed the win with a final goal from Matty Beniers.

This has not been the first time that Mittelstadt has shown a lack of effort during important situations, and it is getting a little old to watch at this point in his career. For a player that needs to prove that he deserves a regular spot in the lineup, he cannot afford to take shifts off and be the reason a key goal gets called back. There is no room for quitters on this team anymore, and he looked defeated from being down by three goals instead of motivated to score and come back. It’s time Kevyn Adams started to look at trade options for the young forward.

Mittelstadt’s Role Is Decreasing

In the 2021-22 season, Mittelstadt was poised to become the #1 center, but he suffered an injury early in the season and never fully recovered from it. This season, he started off as the second-line center, and has already found his way down to the third line between Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund. He has been outworked and outclassed by Dylan Cozens every step of the way, and with players like Asplund and Peyton Krebs both being able to play the third-line center role, he is quickly losing his foothold on his roster spot.

Casey Mittelstadt Buffalo Sabres
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

He does see time on both the penalty kill and the first power-play unit, but he offers very little beyond his face-off ability in these roles. His face-off ability gives him better value on the penalty kill, compared to the power play where he mans the right side as a second setup man. The Sabres would be better off putting Olofsson back in that spot to create multiple shooting options and increase their scoring numbers. His scoring stats have not been bad as he has five points in six games, but the reality is that his numbers will drop as the season progresses and his role is altered.

What is Mittelstadt’s Market Value?

Mittelstadt’s value has multiple factors that go into it. He currently sits with a cap hit of $2.5-million for the next two seasons so there is a lot of value in that contract considering the low dollar amount and term left. He has not yet played a full NHL season, so there are some health concerns that come with trading for him, but on the positive side, he is still young and can bounce back from injuries pretty easily. He is a former first-round pick and has the potential to still break out and have some great numbers on the right team, but Buffalo is not the long-term fit for him.

Mattias Samuelsson Buffalo Sabres
Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kevyn Adams should shop him around sooner than later, and a deal could be worked out by a team looking for some depth scoring, or a team that lost some top-6 forwards and need a cheap replacement. He can play both roles, and his prowess in the face-off dot this season will only heighten his value. Right now, he would be worth a similar middle-six scoring forward, a bottom-four defender from another team, or a couple of early-round picks due to his potential. He would not likely fetch a first-round pick, but he could still command a second and a third-round pick from a team needing an offensive boost. The Sabres are currently in a jam with some key injuries to their defense, so he could be the perfect trade chip to solve this issue.

Replacing Mittelstadt Would Not Be Difficult

The Sabres currently are enjoying some of the best depth they have had in years. Vinnie Hinostroza came back this summer on a one-year deal and has been on fire since being inserted into the lineup during the road trip. JJ Peterka is proving to be more capable with each shift that passes, and other youngsters like Krebs and Quinn are out to prove they deserve full time spots. There is no shortage of players that are currently with the big club that could fill the role Mittelstadt is playing, and there are even more in Rochester just waiting for their chance to shine.

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Tyson Kozak, Lukas Rousek, Brett Murray, and Linus Weissbach are just a few names that come to mind that could make the jump to the NHL in the event of Mittelstadt being moved. All of them are off to solid starts in the American Hockey League and had very good training camps in early September, so rewarding them would only be a positive thing for the franchise. The effort comes and goes with Mittelstadt during every season he has played, and the time to cut ties with him is arriving. Seeing his attitude from losing shows he is not in the right head space to be on this team, and moving on from him would be the best course of action. Regardless of if he is moved before the trade deadline this season, this should be the last year he wears a Buffalo uniform.