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Carolina Hurricanes sign Sebastian Aho, Aleksi Saarela to entry level deals

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The #AhoHypeTrain will be entering the PNC Arena station forthwith.

Russia vs Finland - 2016 IIHF World Championship Ice Hockey: Semi Final

Fresh off a star turn for the silver-medalist Finnish national team at the 2016 World Championships, Sebastian Aho is coming across the pond.

The Canes announced Monday morning that they have signed Aho to a three-year entry level deal that matches the deal given to his 2015 draft classmate Noah Hanifin: a little over $830,000 in the NHL or $70,000 in the AHL per year.

Aho led Finnish club Karpat with a point-per-game pace in 45 games, scoring the game-winning goal of overtime of Game 7 of the Finnish league final to win the title. He nearly matched his regular-season pace in the World Championships, with 7 points in 10 games as the second-youngest player on the Finland roster. Among his tallies was this Stamkosian effort against Germany:

"[Aho] had a tremendous season as an 18-year-old playing against men in Finland’s top league, and was outstanding in international competitions including the recent World Championship," said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in a statement. "He will play an important role for the Hurricanes moving forward."

The coach who denied Aho a gold medal in Russia, Bill Peters, had nothing but good things to say about him in a press conference last week. "I’d be shocked if he comes in and can’t make our hockey team," said Peters. "We’ll make sure we use him properly, surround him with good people and give him all the support he needs."

Aho is one of three players who will represent the Canes at the World Cup in September. Peters is an assistant to Mike Babcock on Team Canada, and Michal Jordan will represent the Czech Republic.

The press release from the team is below.

‘CANES AGREE TO TERMS WITH SEBASTIAN AHO
2015 second-round pick to represent Finland at World Cup of Hockey

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 on a three-year, entry-level contract with forward Sebastian Aho. The deal will pay Aho $832,500 in the NHL or $70,000 in the American Hockey League for all three seasons, and he receives a signing bonus of $277,500.

"Sebastian is regarded as one of the top prospects in hockey and is ready to begin his North American career," said Francis. "He had a tremendous season as an 18-year-old playing against men in Finland’s top league, and was outstanding in international competitions including the recent World Championship. He will play an important role for the Hurricanes moving forward."

Aho, 18, led Karpat of Finland’s top professional league in scoring in 2015-16, with 45 points (20g, 25a) in 45 games. Among all Liiga skaters, he ranked tied for fourth in goals, ninth in points and tied for 11th in assists, despite playing in just 45 of his team’s 60 games because of time spent with the Finnish national junior team. The Rauma, Finland, native was tied for third among league skaters in scoring during the playoffs with 15 points (4g, 11a) in 14 games.

Selected by the Hurricanes in the second round, 35th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft, Aho (5’11", 172 lbs.) has totaled 59 points (24g, 35a) in 78 career games in Liiga for Karpat and Assat Pori. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 during Liiga’s Kanada-malja final in 2015 to give Karpat its second consecutive league championship.

Aho has represented Finland in a number of international tournaments, including the recent IIHF World Championship, where he notched seven points (3g, 4a) in 10 games to help Finland capture silver. He led Finland to the gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship, ranking second in the tournament in scoring with 14 points (5g, 9a) in seven games. Aho also skated for his home country at the 2014 U18 World Junior Championship and the 2015 World Junior Championship and has been named to Finland’s roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, to take place from Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto.


Update 4:03 p.m.: The Canes weren't Finn-ished signing prospects today.

(I'm sorry.)

Carolina has signed forward Aleksi Saarela to a three year deal as well. Saarela, who is probably better known to Canes fans as the player the team received from the Eric Staal trade, was the second youngest player in the Finnish league to score 20 goals this season, behind - you guessed it - Sebastian Aho.

Saarela was the Rangers' third round pick in the 2015 Draft, and won the gold medal at the 2016 World Junior Championships alongside Aho.

Ron Francis, who was apparently doing nothing besides negotiating contracts and issuing statements today, said of Saarela: "Aleksi is a talented, offensive-minded player who we were excited to acquire at the trade deadline. 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."

And below is the dutiful posting of the team's press release:

CANES AGREE TO TERMS WITH ALEKSI SAARELA
Center led team, ranked tied for fourth among SM-liiga goal scorers in 2015-16

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 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, 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.