CORAL SPRINGS — When Robert Hagg took the ice for his first practice with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, a smile never seemed to leave his face.
“It’s an amazing group, which I can tell from only being here for a couple of hours,” he said.
Radko Gudas, a former defense partner of his from his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, was one of the first people he called after he was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Florida Panthers on Monday.
The two of them spent three seasons together with the Flyers and developed a close relationship with each other ever since.
They immediately reconnected.
“As soon as I picked up, we just started laughing. That was the first impression, we had a good laugh and we’re going to have a lot of fun,’’ Hagg said.
“It’s awesome, Gudas is one of my closest friends. We have a good bond, so if we get out there together, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Hagg also had a little help getting to know the guys in the Panthers’ dressing room.
Mark Pysyk, a popular figure in the Florida locker room in his time there from 2016-2020, was a teammate of his in Buffalo.
When he got the call that he was going to be a Panther, he knew Pysyk could help him out — and he obliged.
“He said I’m going to love it here and he reached out to a bunch of guys and gave them my number,” Hagg said.
“Mark Pysyk is one special guy, I love that guy. We had a lot of fun this year and I’m gonna miss him for sure.”
The 6-2 defenseman spent five seasons with the Flyers prior to being traded to the Sabres in the 2021 offseason.
During that time, he also got to know new Panther Claude Giroux pretty well.
“It makes that transition a little easier for him and for G and I think our group is a very welcoming dressing room so I think they’ll ease the transition very smoothly.”
So, when he found out he was getting traded, he knew he would feel at home in Sunrise.
“It’s a part of the business, so you know it can happen any time, but as soon as I found out it was Florida, I started thinking of Gudas, G, and all of those guys and I was really excited,” Hagg said.
“We’re going for the Stanley Cup, so you don’t get too many chances like this. We have a really good team and the whole organization is getting behind us to go for it. It could be once in a lifetime, so I’m really going to enjoy this one.”
With Aaron Ekblad on LTIR and out for the rest of the regular season, Hagg could find himself being a big part of Florida’s playoff push going forward.
“He’s a great skater, he can play that physical game, he’s got a good stick, a good shot, and he just looks like one of those consistent defensemen our team needs: he limits his mistakes and he’s a good puck mover,” MacKenzie Weegar said.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing what he does for us and he’s another class act, another great character in the room that’s going to fit comfortably with us.”
- Anton Lundell will not be making the road trip this week, per Brunette. It won’t be because of his lower-body injury, though, which Brunette says has been cleared. His flu-like illness will be what is keeping him out. It is not COVID-related.
- Sergei Bobrovsky is feeling better after missing Florida’s California road trip with an illness, but Brunette says he is not sure who will start on Thursday in Montreal quite yet.
- Ryan Lomberg and Patric Hornqvist are back at full health and will be available on Thursday.