Saarela, 21, would have become an unrestricted free agent in June had he not signed, after being selected 123rd overall back in 2019.
The young forward has been playing professional hockey in Finland for years now, first appearing at the Liiga level during the 2017-18 season. His offensive game hasn’t broken out yet, but few players in Europe can keep up with his speed.
Chicago will try to hone that elite skating ability into a valuable NHL asset, and for Saarela, there isn’t really a better landing spot than the Blackhawks in terms of NHL opportunity. The team will be turning over its entire roster in the next few years, and offering plenty of chances to youngsters looking to prove themselves.
An entry-level contract represents a no-risk investment from the Blackhawks, especially given how many open slots they have for next season. Saarela becomes just the 11th player under contract with Chicago through 2024-25.
In 41 regular season games, the speedy forward scored seven goals and 18 points. He added a pair of goals in a six-game series against HIFK that ended yesterday in an overtime loss.