The Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up their player exit media availabilities Friday morning, and it included talks with assistant captain Jordan Martinook, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, and Sebastian Aho.
Martinook fielded questions about his UFA status, the uncertainty surrounding his future, and the impact that the Hurricanes’ fanbase has had on his life. Aho talked about the next steps for the team and what he needs to do to help get them to the next level.
Here’s what they had to say:
On contract negotiations: Obviously [the loss] is fresh and we’re just having meetings today. Listen, I came here three years ago and I felt like I was part of the culture change a little bit. I can put a feather in my cap in that. Feel like there’s a group of us that have been here three years that have been the driving force of trying to turn this thing around. I feel like we have. Willy always used the term, ‘Relevant’ and I think we are definitely there. Obviously, I want to see it through. I think we’re right there. We’re so close. If I were to go somewhere else, it’d be tough to see if they were to win here because I feel like I was a big part of it. At the end of the day, it’s a business and I want to stay here, but I have a family. I just had a baby girl. I have to look out for myself and my family, but at the end of the day I want to be a Hurricane and hopefully, we can make that happen.
On what being a Cane has meant to him: I’m gonna get emotional I feel like. Well, I’ve had both of my kids here now which is so huge. That’s a monumental life event. That’s something where I’ll always hold Raleigh dear to me. Just the fans… I can go on for days and days about them. But the first year tailgating. My dad going out there with my family. They welcomed us with open arms and my dad loved it and I feel like he was the first star at a few of those tailgates. Just how involved the fanbase is here. It’s incredible. I feel like I’m somebody that really energizes off the fans and I take a lot of pride in being able to interact and do my thing with them. And I’ll just touch on the thing with Emma. All the people that have donated to that and how they brought her story to light. It’s been incredible. I just want to say thank you to all the Caniacs and everybody out there that has supported me since me and Emma got in our little fanfare and have supported Emma and brought her story to life. I think I can go on for a lot more, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you Caniacs. Love you guys.
On what the team needs to get over the hump: It’s so close. It’s very, very close. Obviously, every team that makes it and gets eliminated says the same things, but we have so many people in this room that want to win and that have been there. You just look at teams that have kind of gone… You look at Tampa. Tampa beat us. Obviously, they’re a great team, but they had some years before where they struggled. And then once they finally broke through, now you’re seeing that they won the Stanley Cup last year and obviously they have a good chance to do it again this year. I think it’s just sticking with it. Continuing on. Guys are going to get better. The younger guys that are 21, 22, [Aho] is 23 and he’s just going to get better. It’s that close and for us to be consistently there and give ourselves a chance, that’s all you can ask for. I sincerely think once we get over that hurdle, there’s going to be good things.
On his approach to offseason plans: I’ve got a little thing I’ve gotta get cleaned up health-wise here. So I’ll do that. Little short recovery. And then obviously I have a fresh baby that I’m gonna love and cuddle. Obviously, we’ve got to get back to Canada. See our families that we haven’t seen in a long time. I have talked with my agent a couple of times. It’s still fresh. I’m still pretty disappointed in the outcome, so we’ll talk and we’ll have a plan and I’m sure we’ll be talking here and we’ll see what happens here.
On if his transition as a leader has been natural or something discussed with the team: It’s more up to me. Every year, you want to get better in many ways and be a leader of the time, and take steps forward to help the team win more. I think it’s more natural as years go by and you get more experience. You earn that trust from your teammates and the coaching staff. I’d say it’s more of a natural thing than anyone saying you have to do this or this.
On Svechnikov’s season and if he was too hard on himself after the season ended: Obviously, the expectations and the bar are so high because everyone knows how great of a player he is. I’ve always enjoyed playing with him. He’s dynamic, he’s strong, he’s skilled. He’s a great player. I don’t think he had a bad year, but I’m 100% certain that was haven’t seen the best from him. He’s a young guy, been in the league three years. Thinking about myself, you need tons of experience to be the best of yourself. I think he’s on the right track. Everyone loves him. He’s a great guy and a great player, so I’m excited to see what’s in his future.
On if he has any specific training focuses this offseason: It’s overall. First, you have to be physically and mentally ready when camp starts. You have to use summertime to work on your own stuff. Whenever we come back, everyone has to be a little better. It’s not like one guy, instead of scoring 20, he has to score 40. It doesn’t work like that. Every guy takes a little step, and that way we’ll be a better team.
On being part of such a good center group with Staal and Trocheck: It’s awesome. Jordan does it all. He’s the leader of the team. He’s a great player for us and a great leader for us, so it’s always fun to have a guy like that on your team. You watch him on a daily basis. He’s a pro’s pro. He takes care of his body and he does it right every day. I sit next to him in the locker room, so I’m always looking to him and learning. Trocheck’s been great. Right-handed center who took a lot of big draws this year and scored big goals. It was a great season for him. You need that depth to be a good team.
On how he leads and wants to improve in being a leader moving forward: I just try to be myself. It’s not like I think ‘now I have to lead,’ or anything like that. I just want to be the guy who leads by example and everyone can watch and kind of follow. Obviously, you have to earn trust from your teammates and stuff like that, so I just try to be myself every day and work as hard as I can and be as good of a player as I can. I think that’s going to be my way to lead.
On if the loss to Tampa is going to fuel his offseason: That’s one thing we have to do. Kind of remember how bad it feels to lose and use that in everyone’s offseason. Do the work, be confident and ready to go for whenever the next season starts. It’s a learning experience, but at the same time, we want to use that motivation to have a good offseason and be ready for the next training camp and season.