How Robert Hagg being cleared affects Detroit Red Wings’ defense spots

Detroit Free Press

Robert Hagg has been cleared to play, which adds to the Detroit Red Wings‘ depth on defense.

The free-agent signee was on the ice Friday morning in a contact sweater for the first time since he left the Red-White game Sept. 25 after getting hit in the head by a puck.

“Skated today, felt pretty good,” Hagg said. “It was a good first step. One step at a time. It’s my goal to be ready for that game,” Oct. 14, when the Wings open the season.

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Hagg was signed in July, for one year, $800,000, shortly after the Wings found out another UFA signing, defenseman Mark Pysyk, would miss the first half of the season recovering from Achilles surgery. For Hagg, who split last season between Buffalo and Florida, it was an appealing offer.

“If you look around this room, there’s a lot of young guys, great players,” Hagg said. “And then the history itself, Detroit is, for me as a Swede, something I’ve been following for quite some time, with all the Swedes that have been here.”

Lalonde said Hagg would not play in the final preseason game, Saturday at Toronto, “but he’ll be available to us for next week. So we’ll have to decide where that fits in.”

Hagg’s availability could affect who Lalonde picks to be the third defense pairing. For the majority of the preseason, signs have pointed to Gustav Lindstrom and Simon Edvinsson. Edvinsson, 19, is trying to start his NHL career, and Lindstrom, 23, has played 92 games. Hagg, 27, has appeared in 300 games and he’s the type of stay-at-home defenseman that appeals to a team trying to reduce the element of risk in its game.

Asked if he had a grasp on his third pairing, Lalonde said, “no, and that’s not coach talk. We’ll evaluate again this weekend. That will be a staff-management conversation on Sunday, maybe even Monday.”

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The big decision for general manager Steve Yzerman is whether Edvinsson, the No. 6 pick from the 2021 draft, is better off in Detroit, or developing in Grand Rapids. Edvinsson is waiver exempt, facilitating potentially sending him to the minors. Jordan Oesterle and Steven Kampfer are also NHL-experienced defensemen trying to forge roles; it’s likely Oesterle would be the reserve defenseman and Kampfer assigned to the Griffins.

The Wings have to submit a 23-man roster by 5 p.m. Monday.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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