Tag Archives: Aleksi Saarela

Carolina Hurricanes 2019-20 Season Preview

Carolina Hurricanes

46-29-7, 99 points, 4th in the Metropolitan Division

Eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final by Boston

Additions: F Dominik Bokk (acquired from STL), F Ryan Dzingel, F Brian Gibbons, F Erik Haula (acquired from VGK), F Alex Lintuniemi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Joel Edmundson (acquired from STL), D Gustav Forsling (acquired from CHI), D Jake Gardiner, D Chase Priskie, D Kyle Wood (acquired from SJS), G Anton Forsberg (acquired from CHI), G James Reimer (acquired from FLA)

Subtractions: F Patrick Brown (signed with VGK), F Micheal Ferland (signed with VAN), F Patrick Marleau (bought out), F Greg McKegg (signed with NYR), F Andrew Poturalski (signed with ANA), F Nicolas Roy (traded to VGK), F Aleksi Saarela (traded to CHI), D Trevor Carrick (traded to SJS), D Calvin de Haan (traded to CHI), D Justin Faulk (traded to STL), D Adam Fox (traded to NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with COL), D Josh Wesley (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Scott Darling (traded to FLA), G Curtis McElhinney (signed with TBL)

Still Unsigned: F Saku Maenalanen (KHL, CAR reserve list), F Justin Williams

Re-signed: F Sebastian Aho, F Clark Bishop, F Brock McGinn, D Hadyn Fleury, D Roland McKeown, G Petr Mrazek

Offseason Analysis: While some teams have signed the biggest names in free agency and improved in one particular aspect, one team has made all the right moves in multiple areas.

Already stocked with plenty of strength, depth and youth, the Carolina Hurricanes added in every category.

Canes GM, Don Waddell, was busy this summer making nine trades since the end of the regular season– seven of which involved players– and signing key pieces of the 2019-20 roster to new deals.

First and foremost, Carolina’s priority this offseason resided in Sebastian Aho’s next contract.

Aho originally signed an offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens at the dawn of free agency on July 1st, but the Hurricanes matched the deal about a week later and retained his services.

Montreal thought a five-year, $8.454 million per season, offer with a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses owed in the first year of the contract would unnerve Carolina.

It’s just a drop in the bucket for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, who is investing more than just a better on-ice product around the organization.

Though the Hurricanes couldn’t convince Adam Fox to sign with the team after acquiring the defender from the Calgary Flames as part of the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm for Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland trade, Carolina sent Fox to the New York Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick.

If Fox plays at least 30 games this season for the Rangers, then the 2020 3rd round pick is upgraded to a 2020 2nd round pick.

At the Draft in June, Waddell worked a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick.

If the 2020 1st round pick from Toronto is a top-10 pick, then Carolina will receive a 2021 1st round pick instead.

Marleau was bought out by the Hurricanes and will cost Carolina $6.250 million against the cap this season.

The Canes have $8.583 million tied up in buyout penalties as Alexander Semin’s $2.333 million penalty expires at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, which means Waddell has plenty of salary to work with in the coming years.

Two days after the Draft, Carolina sent Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela to the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg on June 24th.

Forsling, 23, is a suitable option for a top-six defender role with room for growth– given he’s on the upswing in his prime (defenders generally aren’t considered “peak” until their early 30s).

Forsberg, 26, has some experience as an NHL backup, but will supplement Alex Nedeljokvic’s workload with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) for the foreseeable future.

After winning their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history, a significant portion of the Checkers’ core was utilized as trade bait or pushed out of the Hurricanes organization by incoming youth are ready for their AHL debuts.

There are seven newcomers to the Checkers roster from within the Hurricanes system from last season to this season, including three players under the age of 22.

Out of the 33 players listed on their 2019 Calder Cup Playoff roster, 15 of them have moved on from Charlotte to another team in professional hockey (NHL, AHL, ECHL, Europe, Russia, etc.) and even Mike Vellucci left the Checkers to join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as their new head coach.

In his place, former assistant coach turned current Checkers head coach, Ryan Warsofsky, will take the task of running things from behind the bench as the AHL’s youngest head coach at 31-years-old.

Nicolas Roy and a conditional 2021 5th round pick were flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Erik Haula on June 27th.

Haula, 28, only managed to play 15 games last season for the Golden Knights before suffering a knee injury, but the veteran forward had a career-high 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games with Vegas in 2017-18.

He should fit in well within a top-nine forward role, either as a second line or third line center/left wing and is a cheaper replacement for Ferland’s breakout year that led to a new four-year deal worth $3.500 million per season with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency.

If Haula is still on Carolina’s roster after this season or if the Canes trade Haula for a player, multiple draft picks or a draft pick in rounds 1-5, then Vegas receives the conditional 2021 5th round pick. If no condition is met, then the Hurricanes will not have to forfeit their draft pick to the Golden Knights.

Three days after adding Haula, Waddell found a new backup goaltender in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

Carolina traded Scott Darling and a 2020 6th round pick (originally belonging to the Buffalo Sabres) to Florida in exchange for James Reimer on June 30th.

Reimer, 31, had a disappointing 3.09 goals against average and a dismal .900 save percentage in 36 games with the Panthers and is looking to rebound with the Hurricanes in a backup role after seeing his GAA climb for the last three seasons with Florida while trying to take on more games in light of Roberto Luongo’s waning years.

Luongo is now retired (as of this offseason) and didn’t win a Stanley Cup championship in his 19 NHL seasons, unlike Justin Williams, who won the Cup three times in 20 seasons.

Williams, 37, hasn’t officially retired, but is “stepping away” from the game for the time being.

The 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy winner won two Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014 and played a role in Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup championship.

His presence in the Hurricanes dressing room over the last two seasons was pivotal in the transition among ownership, the front office and with the players on the ice.

Finally, after a minor swap with the San Jose Sharks, which saw Trevor Carrick depart the organization for Kyle Wood on August 6th, Waddell finished (for now) his busy offseason trades with one more major move.

Longtime anchor on Carolina’s power play and top-four defender, Justin Faulk, was packaged with a 2020 5th round pick and traded to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in exchange for Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick on Sept. 24th.

The Canes retained 14% of Faulk’s salary ($676,667) in the transaction, while adding a solid top-six defender (Edmundson) and a top German prospect (Bokk) to the fold.

And that’s not even covering Waddell’s brilliance in free agency.

Carolina signed Ryan Dzingel to a two-year contract worth $3.375 million per season on July 12th– adding to the Hurricanes’ plethora of forwards with 20 or more goals last season.

Dzingel recorded 22-22–44 totals in 57 games with the Ottawa Senators last season before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.

Though he only managed 4-8–12 totals in 21 games with Columbus, Dzingel fell victim to Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella’s, coaching style– whereby nothing is changed until it has to change.

Columbus didn’t find the right fit for the 27-year-old forward in their lineup and Dzingel didn’t take to Tortorella’s scheme and thus, signed with the Hurricanes, where Rod Brind’Amour is saving the team once more.

Seriously, Brind’Amour is the perfect person behind the bench for the organization, if last season didn’t already prove that enough.

Not only did the Hurricanes make the Eastern Conference Final, but Brind’Amour brought back the glow of Carolina’s glory days.

He was the face of the franchise at the dawn of the millennium and he is the face of efficient coaching– with a high compete level– in the contemporary NHL.

And one more thing…

If you’re worried about what Faulk’s departure means for Carolina’s power play, don’t be.

That’s why Jake Gardiner signed a four-year contract worth $4.050 million per season on Sept. 6th.

The durable 29-year-old defender is in his prime, effective on special teams and looking to turn over a new leaf after breaking into the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2011-12 season.

Offseason Grade: A

In short, this team is legit. Waddell added to the roster without subtracting anything major that he hadn’t already planned to replace and Martin Necas could land a job on the team this season.

Of the 22 skaters on the team currently, the average age is 25.3, which makes last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Final even more impressive– even with the ever increasing presence of younger and younger players league-wide.

Carolina is the last team to receive an “A” grade for their offseason work and is looking to make a jump in the Metropolitan Division standings in the regular season from wild card team to division title contender.

Chicago Blackhawks 2019-20 Season Preview

Chicago Blackhawks

36-34-12, 84 points, 6th in the Central Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Ryan Carpenter, F Alexander Nylander (acquired from BUF), F John Quenneville (acquired from NJD), F Aleksi Saarela (acquired from CAR), F Andrew Shaw (acquired from MTL), F Zack Smith (acquired from OTT), D Calvin de Haan (acquired from CAR), D Philip Holm, D Olli Maatta (acquired from PIT), G Robin Lehner

Subtractions: F Artem Anisimov (traded to OTT), F Victor Ejdsell (SHL), F John Hayden (traded to NJD), F Peter Holland (KHL), F Dominik Kahun (traded to PIT), F Marcus Kruger (NLA), F Chris Kunitz (retired), F Luke Johnson (signed with MIN), F Anthony Louis (signed with Charlotte, AHL), F Andreas Martinsen (signed with ANA), F Jordan Schroeder (KHL), F Tyler Sikura (signed with Rockford, AHL), F Spencer Watson (signed with Indy, ECHL), D Brandon Davidson (signed with CGY), D Gustav Forsling (traded to CAR), D Blake Hillman (signed with Toledo, ECHL), D Henri Jokiharju (traded to BUF), G Anton Forsberg (traded to CAR), G Cam Ward (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Andrew Campbell

Re-signed: F David Kampf, F Brendan Perlini

Offseason Analysis: Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman, had a busy offseason making six trades that involved players and navigating a transition period for the franchise that has won three Stanley Cup championships in the last decade, but found themselves outside of the playoffs for the last two seasons.

First, Bowman dealt forward, Dominik Kahun, and a 2019 5th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defender, Olli Maatta, on June 15th, then the Blackhawks GM followed things up with a minor swap with the New Jersey Devils a week later.

Acquiring Maatta wasn’t the only adjustment made to Chicago’s blue line as Bowman traded Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg to the Carolina Hurricanes for Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela on June 24th.

By the end of the month, Bowman was reunited with former Blackhawk turned current Blackhawk once more– Andrew Shaw– in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens involving draft picks and Shaw.

Maatta brings a $4.083 million cap hit, de Haan carries a $4.550 million cap hit and Shaw costs $3.900 million per season. All three players are under contract through the 2021-22 season.

On July 1st, the Blackhawks strengthened their crease by signing Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5.000 million contract. The 28-year-old Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner is slated to backup 34-year-old, Corey Crawford, but could easily split time with the two-time Stanley Cup champion.

Lehner could also become a valuable option if Crawford misses any time due to injury.

Both goaltenders are in contract years.

One (Crawford) is getting older and may not be able to keep playing indefinitely and the other (Lehner) just signed his one-year deal with the possibility of cashing in if Crawford cannot continue to be the goaltender for Chicago, let alone an NHL starter.

Crawford managed a 14-18-5 record in 39 games played last season– while battling injuries– with a 2.93 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. In 2011-12, Crawford had a 2.72 GAA and a .903 SV% in 57 games as a starter.

Lehner amassed a 25-13-5 record in 46 games last season with a 2.13 GAA and a .930 SV% en route to splitting the William M. Jennings Trophy honors for 2018-19 with his backup on the New York Islanders, Thomas Greiss.

It’s no easy task to replace Crawford with the next goaltender in the post-Cup dynasty era, but Bowman’s already strategizing for the inevitable as time doesn’t wait for anyone.

On July 9th, Bowman continued his offseason moves and dealt Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres for Alexander Nylander– a player who’s yet to make an impact at the NHL level and looking for a change in scenery (you know, like how Dylan Strome turned things around after the Arizona Coyotes sent him to Chicago).

Finally, Bowman completed his offseason trading with another one-for-one swap, sending Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for Zack Smith, saving the Blackhawks $1.300 million in the process for a durable third line center.

Head coach, Jeremy Colliton, has a lot of new puzzle pieces to play with and figure out what’s the best fit.

With an aging core, new acquisitions and plenty of fresh, young, faces emerging, Chicago is under no pressure to win it all in 2020, but they are hoping to make a serious dent in the regular season and make it back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Offseason Grade: A-

The Blackhawks didn’t overpay anyone in free agency, but they did trade a 2020 2nd round pick, a 2020 7th round pick and a 2021 3rd round pick to the Canadiens for Shaw and a 2021 7th round pick. That’s… not ideal.

Drafting Kirby Dach 3rd overall in June is sure to help speed up Chicago’s transition and avoid a rebuild, plus Bowman is remaining active in his roster construction with the future in mind instead of getting too attached to components from their Cup winning days.

DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

TRADE: Canes’ Eric Staal dealt to Rangers

By: Nick Lanciani

The Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers completed a trade early on Sunday afternoon in which forward Eric Staal was sent to the Rangers. The Hurricanes acquired forward Aleksi Saarela, a second round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a second round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in return.

New York Rangers LogoStaal is a 31-year-old center who has spent his entire career (until now) with the Hurricanes for the last 12 seasons. In 909 career NHL games with Carolina he had 775 points (322 goals, 453 assists) and 678 penalty minutes.

He leaves the Hurricanes as the team’s all-time leader since 1997 in games played (909), goals (322), assists (453), points (775), hat tricks (13), penalty minutes (674), power play goals (105), shorthanded goals (16) and game winning goals (47). Staal ranks second to Ron Francis in franchise history in goals, assists, points and power play goals. He ranks first in franchise history, dating back to 1979, in shorthanded goals and hat tricks.

The center led the Hurricanes with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) during their 25 game run to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship and is the franchise’s all-time leader in playoff scoring with 43 points.

At 6’4″, 205-pounds, Staal is one of only two NHL players to register at least 30 assists and 50 points in ten consecutive seasons from 2005-2006 to 2014-2015 (the other being Martin St. Louis) and he is one of seven players to have tallied 50 or more points in at least ten different seasons since entering the league in the 2003-2004 season. Along with Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau, Staal is the only other NHL player to have skated in at least 900 games with at least 300 goals, 400 assists and 700 points since the start of the 2003-2004 regular season.

He currently ranks second in the NHL in shots on goal with 3,033 shots since 2003-2004. Steal played an important role in leading Carolina to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final and led the Hurricanes with 10-5-15 totals in 18 Stanley Cup Playoffs games in 2009.

The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has played in 63 games this season with 10-23-33 totals and 32 penalty minutes. He skated in his 900th career NHL game on February 7th in Montreal and became the third player to play in at least 900 games with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise (the other two were Ron Francis and Glen Wesley, by the way).

Steal served as Carolina’s captain for parts of the last seven seasons after being named the 13th captain in franchise history on January 20, 2010. He was captain of Team Staal at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh and was the 2008 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in Atlanta. He’s a four time All-Star (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011) and was selected by the Hurricanes in the first round (2nd overall) at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

On an international scale, Staal has represented team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, IIHF World Junior Championship and Winter Olympics. He is a member of the “Triple Gold Club”, as a winner of the gold medal at the 2007 IIHF World Championship, Olympic gold medalist in 2010 and a Stanley Cup champion in 2006. Staal has also won a silver medal with Canada at the 2008 IIHF World Championship and registered three assists in eight games while serving as Canada’s captain at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.

The Hurricanes retained half (50%) of Staal’s remaining salary, as he is a pending UFA.

Carolina Hurricanes LogoSaarela is a 19-year-old forward who currently plays in the Finnish elite league, SM-liiga, leading Assat Pori in goals (18) and ranking second in points (31) through 46 games played.

The native of Helsinki, Finland won a gold medal with his Finnish teammates at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and amassed 4-3-7 totals in seven games in the tournament.

He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round (89th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In four seasons with Lukko Rauma and Assat Pori in Finland’s top league, Saarela has 47 points (25 goals, 22 assists) in 156 career games.

Eric Staal will likely join his brother, Marc, and his new teammates on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden. The Hurricanes will move on without Staal during Sunday afternoon’s matinee against the St. Louis Blues in Raleigh.

NHL Trades Since January 1, 2016

By: Nick Lanciani

Here’s a quick recap (and I mean really quick recap- more like a brief refresher) of every trade made in the league since January 1st. For anything before the 2016 calendar year, check out NHL.com’s Trade Tracker.

This year’s trade deadline is Monday, February 29, 2016 (in other words- tomorrow). All trade calls must be made by 3:00 PM EST on Monday in order for any deal to potentially go through.

On January 3rd, the Chicago Blackhawks traded F Jeremy Morin to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for F Richard Panik.

January 6th saw two trades made across the league with the Philadelphia Flyers having traded F Vincent Lecavalier and D Luke Schenn to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for F Jordan Weal and a 3rd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

That same day, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired D Seth Jones and sent F Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one trade.

The Anaheim Ducks traded F Max Friberg to the Montréal Canadiens in exchange for G Dustin Tokarski on January 7th.

On January 8th, the New York Rangers dealt F Emerson Etem to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for F Nicklas Jensen.

The league saw several days off from trade action until January 14th when the Nashville Predators acquired D Patrick Mullen from the Ottawa Senators for D Conor Allen.

January 15th witnessed two trades in the NHL, first with the Nashville Predators trading D Victor Bartley to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for D Stefan Elliott. This trade became part of the now infamous, John Scott trade, in which the Coyotes then traded D Victor Bartley and F John Scott to the Montréal Canadiens for D Jarred Tinordi and F Stefan Fournier.

On January 16th the Pittsburgh Penguins traded F David Perron and D Adam Clendening to the Anaheim Ducks for F Carl Hagelin.

The Chicago Blackhawks sent D Ryan Garbutt to the Anaheim Ducks for F Jiri Sekac on January 21st.

Then on February 9th the Toronto Maple Leafs sent D Dion PhaneufF Matt FrattinF Casey BaileyF Ryan Rupert and D Cody Donaghey to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for D Jared CowenF Colin GreeningF Milan Michalek, F Tobias Lindberg and a 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

February 21st played a part in the day that the Toronto Maple Leafs traded F Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Colin Smith and a 4th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

The Toronto Maple Leafs followed up with another trade on February 22nd, sending D Roman Polak and F Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks for F Raffi Torres, a 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

That same day (February 22nd) the Calgary Flames acquired F Hunter Shinkaruk from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for F Markus Granlund.

The Washington Capitals sent a 3rd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for D Mike Weber on February 23rd.

On February 24th the Edmonton Oilers traded the rights to RFA D Philip Larsen to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a conditional 5th round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

The Winnipeg Jets traded F Andrew LaddF Matt Fraser and D Jay Harrison on February 25th, to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Marko Dano, a 1st round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional 3rd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft (if the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2016).

The Chicago Blackhawks then traded D Rob Scuderi to the Los Angeles Kings for D Christian Ehrhoff on February 26th.

Not to be outdone, the Montréal Canadiens sent F Tomas Fleischmann and F Dale Weise to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Phillip Danault and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft also on February 26th.

February 27th began a long list of trades, first with the Edmonton Oilers sending G Anders Nilsson to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for G Niklas Lundstrom and a 5th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Next the Toronto Maple Leafs traded G James Reimer and F Jeremy Morin to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for G Alex StalockF Ben Smith and a conditional 4th round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft (can become a 3rd round pick in 2018 if the Sharks reach this year’s Stanley Cup Final).

The third trade on February 27th sent D Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 6th round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

The Calgary Flames then sent F Jiri Hudler to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a 4th round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. 

Also on the 27th, the Edmonton Oilers acquired a 3rd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and sent D Justin Schultz to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The sixth trade of the day saw the Oilers send F Teddy Purcell to the Florida Panthers for a 3rd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Finally, the last trade on February 27th witnessed the Buffalo Sabres trade F Jason AkesonF Phil VaroneD Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and a conditional 7th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for D Michael SdaoF Eric O’DellF Cole Schneider and F Alex Guptill.

On February 28th the Carolina Hurricanes dealt F Eric Staal to the New York Rangers in  exchange for F Aleksi Saarela, a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and a 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

The New York Rangers traded F Ryan Bourque to the Washington Capitals in exchange for F Chris Brown.

In the third trade of February 28th, the Carolina Hurricanes acquired F Valentin Zykov and a conditional 5th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and sent F Kris Versteeg to the Los Angeles Kings.

Finally, the Washington Capitals closed out trading on February 28th by sending F Brooks LaichD Connor Carrick and a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for F Daniel Winnik and a 5th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft (previously acquired from the Anaheim Ducks).