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Trade grades: Efficient Avalanche rule frenetic day

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The NHL trade deadline's on Friday, at 3 p.m. ET ... right?

Anxious general managers completed five trades Wednesday afternoon. Amid the chaos: Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko is off to Florida via Ottawa, and two-way center Alexander Wennberg is off to New York to join the Rangers via Seattle.

Let's break down the other swaps - two of which featured 38-20-5 Colorado.

Walker, Mittelstadt sent to Avalanche

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Trade 1 details: Colorado receives defenseman Sean Walker and a 2026 fifth-round pick. Philadelphia receives forward Ryan Johansen and a top-10-protected 2025 first-rounder.

Trade 2 details: Colorado receives forward Casey Mittelstadt. Buffalo receives defenseman Bowen Byram.

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These Avalanche deals are interconnected.

In adding Walker and subtracting Byram, the Avalanche's blue line is balanced better for the stretch run and playoffs. Heck, coach Jared Bednar might now have the best overall mix in the NHL, with Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, and Jack Johnson on the left, and Cale Makar, Walker, and Josh Manson on the right. Byram might have the higher ceiling, but Walker is the better fit right now.

Walker, a pending UFA, suits Bednar's uptempo playing style. He's good in transition, and while he isn't a stalwart defender, he does a few things very well, namely killing plays. Heading into this week, Walker ranked second among everyday NHL defensemen in blocked passes per 20 minutes of five-on-five action, according to Sportlogiq. Translation: His defensive stick is elite.

Johansen was included in the Walker deal for salary-cap reasons. The Flyers put the struggling center on waivers shortly after the trade went through.

If I'm Philly general manager Daniel Briere right now, I'm patting myself on the back for getting the correct first-rounder. The 2025 draft class is projected to be better than 2024's. The condition on the pick (top-10 protected) is a downer, though the chances of Colorado bottoming out are slim to none.

The Walker trade was reported first, so initially I wondered if Avs GM Chris MacFarland would have enough draft capital and desirable prospects to acquire a difference-making center. I got my answer quickly, as MacFarland instead weaponized the club's sudden surplus of quality NHL defensemen.

I love this second deal - a true "hockey trade" - for the Avs. They've been desperate for somebody to fill the spot behind Nathan MacKinnon, and from my vantage point, Mittelstadt's breakout is no fluke. It took the 2017 eighth overall pick a while to get to this point, but he's a legitimate top-six playmaker. He was pacing Buffalo in assists (33) and points (47) through 62 games, and in Colorado, he'll be well-insulated alongside stud wingers like Valeri Nichushkin.

There's risk in parting with a player as talented as the 22-year-old Byram. He was the top defenseman in the 2022 Cup Final and has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his four-year NHL career. But - and this is a big but in the grand scheme - Byram has a history of concussions. Is he one hit away from another extended leave? Hopefully not, but that was likely part of the calculus here.

From Buffalo's perspective, I get why they moved Mittelstadt. The pending restricted free agent was stuck behind Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens at center and is due for a solid raise. I also get why the Sabres want to take a chance on a potential top-pair guy like Byram, concussion history be damned.

It feels like this is just one shake-up move of many for the Sabres over the spring and summer. The team's top four now includes four lefties in Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson, and Byram. That's fine - lefties can play the right side - but the asymmetry is notable. GM Kevyn Adams seems to have a master plan as Buffalo's playoff drought nears 13 years.

Avalanche cumulative grade: A
Flyers grade: B+
Sabres grade: B

Henrique, Carrick acquired by Oilers

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Trade details: Edmonton receives forwards Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick, a 2024 seventh-round pick, and the signing rights to goaltender Ty Taylor. Anaheim, which retained 50% of Henrique's and Carrick's salaries, receives a 2024 first-rounder and a conditional 2025 fifth. Tampa Bay, also retaining 50% on Henrique, receives a conditional 2025 fourth.

The Oilers' top priorities coming into deadline week were as follows: add scoring punch and versatility up front and add reliable depth on the back end.

This trade checks off that first task - at a fair price, too.

Henrique, whose cap hit has been reduced from $5.8 million to $1.5 million, is a well-rounded forward likely bound for Edmonton's third line. An incredibly smart player, the pending unrestricted free agent can line up at center or wing and not miss a beat. He's recorded 42 points and won 53% of his faceoffs in 60 games this year. He's a capable penalty killer who blocks plenty of shots.

It's nice to see Henrique head to such a promising Stanley Cup contender. The 34-year-old is respected across the league for his honest play and leadership skills but has appeared in just 28 playoff games over 14 seasons.

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Carrick, 32 and also a pending UFA, is a less impactful piece. The physical center may find a spot on the fourth line and penalty kill. The Oilers rank 14th in the NHL in penalty-kill percentage, which means shorthanded play isn't a glaring issue. Having options on special teams never hurts, though.

Henrique and Carrick don't add up to Jake Guentzel or Pavel Buchnevich, but Oilers GM Ken Holland presumably didn't have the assets to pull off a seismic trade. Props to him, then, for doing something of consequence. The Oilers can't waste another year of Connor McDavid's and Leon Draisaitl's primes.

All of that said, I also like this deal for Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek. In other years, Henrique and Carrick probably wouldn't fetch a first-round pick near the deadline (especially since the number of buyers was probably limited thanks to Henrique's 10-team no-trade list). However, with few impact centers on the market, the rebuilding Ducks were able to reel in that premium asset.

Verbeek, who's on a mission to reshape the Ducks and might not be done dealing, now has two first-rounders and two seconds in the upcoming draft. Assistant GM Martin Madden has a long track record of finding hidden gems.

The Lightning retaining salary is no biggie because Mikhail Sergachev's $8.5-million cap hit is on long-term injured reserve. Why not add a mid-round pick?

Oilers grade: A-
Ducks grade: B+
Lightning grade: B+

John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him via email (

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