– Ron Francis
, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has agreed to terms with center Aleksi Saarela
(al-EHX-ay sah’ah-REH-lah) on a three-year, entry-level contract. 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.
“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.”
Saarela, 19, played 51 of 60 regular-season games in 2015-16 with Assat Pori of the Finnish elite league, SM-liiga, leading the team in goals (20) and ranking third in points (33). He was the second-youngest of SM-liiga’s seven 20-goal scorers, older than only fellow Hurricanes prospect Sebastian Aho by six months. The Helsinki native captured the gold medal alongside Aho at the 2016 World Junior Championship, totaling four goals and three assists (7 points) in seven games.
Drafted by the New York Rangers in the third-round, 89th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft, Saarela (5’11”, 200 lbs.) has totaled 49 points (27g, 22a) in 117 career SM-liiga regular-season games with Lukko and Assat-Pori. The Hurricanes acquired Saarela from the Rangers on Feb. 28, along with two second-round picks, in exchange for Eric Staal.