The Carolina Hurricanes signed a deal on Monday that made the Eric Staal trade deadline deal even more concrete for the fans. General manager Ron Francis announced that the Canes have agreed to terms with Finnish center Aleksi Saarela on a three-year, entry-level contract.
The Canes acquired Saarela from the New York Rangers at the deadline, bringing in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft third round pick (89th overall) as part of the deal sending long-time captain Eric Staal to the Rangers. Saarela is eligible to pull on a Hurricanes sweater this fall.
His signing quick follows the signing of SM-liiga Ässät teammate, and Hurricanes 35th overall pick in last year’s draft, Sebastian Aho. The team inked Aho to a similar three-year ELC earlier in the day.
The 19-year-old Helsinki native Saarela just finished his second season with Ässät, where he led the team with 20 goals, was third with a total of 33 points appearing in 51 of the teams’ 60 games. He also won the gold medal alongside Aho, and playing with top 2016 NHL Entry Draft prospects Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi at the 2016 World Junior Championship, tallying four goals and three assists in seven games.
[quote_box_center author=”Hurricanes GM Ron Francis”]Aleksi is a talented, offensive-minded player who we were excited to acquire at the trade deadline,” said Francis. “He took a big step forward last season and led his team in goal scoring as one of the league’s younger players, and we look forward to seeing his game continue to grow.[/quote_box_center]
At 5’11” and 200 pounds Saarela may be a little under-sized to make the jump directly on to the Hurricanes roster for the start of the 2016-17 season, but he is sure to make a huge impression with the AHL Charlotte Checkers. And with head coach Bill Peters’ penchant for getting prospects to make the three hour trek up I-85 for real NHL-game tryouts, it’s almost a guarantee that Saarela appears in a Canes jersey sometime next season.
As for the details, on the NHL level, the deal will pay Saarela $625,000 in 2016-17, $675,000 in 2017-18 and $750,000 in 2018-19, or $70,000 per season in the American Hockey League (AHL), and he receives a signing bonus of $277,500.