Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Robert Hägg has made it to Buffalo for the first time since being traded to the Sabres on July 23 as part of the Rasmus Ristolainen deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Buffalo also got a first round pick in this year's draft, which they used to select forward Isak Rosén with the 14th overall pick, and a second round pick in 2023.
Hägg, who was skating on Monday at Harborcenter, said he and his fiancé have been in Buffalo for about 10 days. He said he’s liked what he’s seen so far.
"I’ve liked it," Hägg said. "Both me and my fiancé have tried to get to know the city a little bit, see a few restaurants, see the different neighborhoods. So it’s been a lot of fun actually."
Hägg spent four years coming to Buffalo in the winter with the Flyers, and he admitted how much different the city is in the summer and how nice it really is. He said he’s taken in many “nice parks” and also has enjoyed being by the waterfront.
The native of Uppsala, Sweden spent three full seasons in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and played 10 games with the Adirondack Phantoms in the 2013-14 season. That was his draft year when Philadelphia took him 41st overall in the second round.
His first full NHL season was the 2017-18 campaign, so the 26-year-old has only known the Flyers organization. Now that the trade has had a chance to sink in for him, Hägg's looking forward to a new challenge.
"I’m really excited about it," he said. "It’s a new chance for me to see something new, get a new opportunity. So I’m really excited to get this season started, so that’s why I’m here already."
Hägg is now a veteran compared to 21-year-old Rasmus Dahlin, 22-year-old Henri Jokiharju, 23-year-old Jacob Bryson and 21-year-old Mattias Samuelsson. He knows he’s going to have to be part of a leadership group that will help them grow.
“Yes, I’m going into my [eighth] pro year now, so of course I have a little bit of a routine underneath my belt," Hägg said. "But I just have to stick with who I am as a person, who I am as a player. Of course I want to help my teammates out, and if I can be a support guy for Dahlin, Jokiharju and all these young guys, I will gladly take that role.”
Buffalo lost its only physical defenseman in Ristolainen, but that’s a role Hägg can fill.
"I know my role. I’m not a power play guy or a point producer, but my role is to be a physical presence and be hard to play against," he explained. "If I can bring that into this team, that’s what I want to do.”
Over his NHL career, Hägg has averaged five goals and 12 assists for 17 points every 82 games.
Hägg said he’s spoken to head coach Don Granato on the phone, but hasn’t met him yet. Hägg said Granato hasn’t gotten into what will be expected from him.
COVID-19 changed sports as we knew it, including the National Hockey League. For most of the 2020-21 season, there were no fans, and Hägg looks forward to things being better this year.
"You could tell last year it was not the same at all with no fans in the building. It wasn’t the same intensity out there either," Hägg said. "The game was kind of dead, because we didn’t have the fans. But it will be a lot of fun, and hopefully they can bring full capacity soon and bring sports back."
Pro players joining Hägg on Monday were two Western New York natives in Sabres forward Sean Malone and Calgary Flames defenseman Nick DeSimone.
Last season, Malone played one game with the Nashville Predators and 23 games with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.
Meanwhile, DeSimone played eight games with the Amerks last season, picking up six assists. He also played 14 games with the San Jose Barracudas.