Blackhawks sign Antti Saarela to entry-level contract
The Blackhawks signed Saarela before his rights were set to expire in June.
The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Tuesday afternoon that they’ve signed 2019 fourth-round pick Antti Saarela to a a two-year, entry-level contract.
The contract carries an annual salary cap hit of $896,250.
Another friend ‼️ pic.twitter.com/Fqs299HeCh— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 28, 2023
Saarella, 21, has spent the three seasons since his draft selection playing in the Finnish Elite League. He just wrapped up his final season with Lukka, where he finished with 18 points (7 G, 11 A) in 41 regular season games and added two goals in six playoff games. That brought Saarela’s three-year total to 51 points (26 G, 25 A) in 125 Liiga games. He did battle through some injury issues this season, including missing over a month between Feb. 6 and March 9.
Although Saarella wasn’t selected by current Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson, he does play in the style that Davidson seems to like: speedy, energic, and competitive. His best skill is his skating, which Blackhawks Assistant General Manager Mark Eaton recently called “world-class.” He’s a little below average size at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, but he plays with smart physicality and strong defensive instincts. Saarella also has an above average shot that he just needs to use more to be effective offensively.
🚨 Antti Saarela pistää tarkan kudin etureppuun ja @TeamRaumanLukko tasoihin! 🎯— Liiga (@smliiga) March 18, 2023
📺: @CMoreSportFi | #Liiga #Lukko pic.twitter.com/tWKRM9W1Bj
According to Blackhawks Assistant General Manager Mark Eaton, there’s a chance Saarela could play for the Rockford Icehogs to finish out this season:
“He’s a guy that we think can contribute for us in the future. So we want to get him over here as soon as we can. If this season allows, great. If not, then we’ll certainly have him over here for rookie camp next year and training camp after that.”
Considering the lack of forward depth in Rockford at the moment, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have reinforcements in the vein of Saarela. We’ll have to wait to see if that actually happens.