The Florida Panthers and Bill Zito’s shopping spree on the NHL trade market in advance of Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline continued Sunday afternoon. While the league and market reeled from Zito’s wheeling and dealing for Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux on Saturday night, Zito added some blue line insurance.
First, Zito moved Aaron Ekblad to LTIR. Then Zito took no chances and acquired steady defenseman Robert Hagg from the Buffalo Sabres for a sixth-round pick (the pick initially belonged to the Calgary Flames).
Rumors have tied Hagg, 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, to several destinations. Still, the solid defenseman with big leadership qualities should further add to the Panthers locker room as they push to unseat the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and get through a stacked Atlantic Division playoff maze.
The NHL trade market again paid dividends for the Panthers.
Hagg, 27, averaged 17 minutes per game with the Sabres this season. He has nine points (1-8-9) in 48 games. The stay-home defenseman has 91 blocks and 97 hits.
The former Philadelphia Flyers left-side defenseman was a teammate of the newly acquired Giroux. In July, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent as his two-year deal with a $1.6 million AAV expires after the season.
The Florida Panthers also moved top defenseman Aaron Ekblad to LTIR. Aaron Ekblad suffered an apparent leg injury on Friday night, but the initial news was positive.
“We’re very hopeful. It was way better than we thought it was going to be…,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
On Sunday afternoon, Brunette confirmed Ekblad would miss the next few weeks — which made putting Ekblad on LTIR make sense.
The move to LTIR will give Ekblad time to recover from the assumed knee injury. He had to be helped off the ice Friday night, but the injury opened the spot for the dependable if unspectacular Hagg.
Ekblad would be available to join the team for the playoffs if healthy enough.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Pierre LeBrun of TSN first reported the trade and cost.