On March 20, the Florida Panthers place defenseman Aaron Ekblad on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and freed up about $7.5 million in extra cap space. With the extra money shored up, general manager, Bill Zito worked the phones and brought in from the Buffalo Sabres defenseman Robert Hagg in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022. Although Ekblad is only expected to be out week-to-week with a high ankle sprain, the extra depth never hurts on defense.
The Career of Hagg
The native of Uppsala, Sweeden was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round (41st overall) back in 2013. He would not play his first NHL game until April 9th of 2017. Since that day, he would spend the next four seasons with Philadelphia and play a total of 236 games for them. Through those games, he scored 13 goals and tallied 34 assists.
In July of 2020, Hagg was traded to the Buffalo Sabres along with a first-round pick in 2021 and a second-round pick in 2023 in exchange for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Through 48 games with the Sabres, he scored one goal and assisted on seven others. It’s clear he was on a bad team, so he may use this new start to show he can still play.
He’s a Massive Depth Piece
For the experience and talent he brings to the table, Hagg is an excellent option for a depth piece to wait until Ekblad is 100% healthy. His playstyle is good for him to jump up on offense while providing great defensive play. Additionally, he doesn’t have to play a good amount of minutes for the team as the defensive pairs will be balanced with most of the time on ice (TOI). As a result, most of the weight is no longer on his shoulders to be a top-pairing defenseman.
He’ll Feel at Home With Some Familiar Faces
When he gets into South Florida, he’ll have some friends to greet him there in his former teammates from Philly as he’ll be reunited with his former captain in forward Claude Giroux and another teammate in defenseman Radko Gudas. In addition, he’ll have fellow countrymen in forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Gustav Forsling.
He’ll feel a sense of familiarity with those guys around and will get comfortable quickly settling into his new home in Sunrise, Florida.
He’s Going to Have Great Defensive Partners
Hagg also joins the Panther roster with some great talent on the blue line to join him in pieces such as MacKenzie Weegar, Brandon Montour and newly acquired Ben Chiarot. As previously mentioned, he won’t be asked to do a lot during his time down in Florida.
He jumps from a defense that was ranked 26th in goals against a game with 3.48 per match in Buffalo to a team that ranks 12th in that department with just 2.84 per game in the Cats. Unlike Buffalo, he’ll finally have some teammates to back him up.
Zito Continues to Mold His Team
Once again, Zito has found a way to work his magic and find valuable depth for this team to make a big postseason run. Not only with the acquisition of Hagg, but re-signing key players this past free agency and bringing in some big names to fortify the roster in an attempt to make a big run. As a result, Florida has put themselves on the map in the NHL and has emerged as a potential Stanley Cup contender. There’s only one question that lies ahead for the Panthers: will the moves be enough to get to the promised land?
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!