While he waits for a contract in the NHL to be completed, Florida RFA winger Aleksi Saarela has signed with Luuko of the SM-liiga, the Finnish team announced. There is no fixed length of the contract; instead, it will be in effect until Saarela re-signs with the Panthers.
After a productive 2018-19 campaign in Carolina, the 23-year-old was traded to Chicago as part of the Calvin de Haan trade. However, his time there didn’t last long as less than three weeks into the season, he was flipped to Florida for blueliner Ian McCoshen.
Saarela had a decent season with AHL Springfield, picking up a dozen goals with 19 assists in 43 games which was good enough to sit fourth on the Thunderbirds in scoring. He also got into four games with the Panthers where he acquitted himself relatively well, picking up two goals and two assists in nine contests while logging a little over 12 minutes a game in ice time. That should have him in the mix for a full-time roster spot for 2020-21, particularly since he will be eligible for waivers next year.
In the meantime, Saarela returns to a Luuko program that he’s familiar with. He spent most of 2016-17 with them on loan and did well, tallying 15 goals and 13 helpers in 49 games. He’ll be able to get into game shape in Finland which should help his push for a role with Florida when next season gets underway.