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‘I couldn’t see myself anywhere else:’ Martinook, Hurricanes glad to be reunited

In an offseason that saw a number of familiar faces depart, the Hurricanes held onto a player who’s a key part of their team both on and off the ice.

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes said goodbye to a number of familiar faces from last year’s team over the offseason, with a handful of players leaving in unrestricted free agency. One face that many expected might depart, however, ended up returning.

On the first day of free agency, forward Jordan Martinook re-signed with the Hurricanes on a three-year deal with a $1.8-million AAV, a reunion both sides hoped for all along.

“It sucked,” Martinook said when asked about his free agency process. “No, it was good. It was definitely interesting to see that side of it, talk with teams and do all that. But I think everybody in this room knows where my heart was at. It was tough because I was worried there when it kind of came down to it, but then I’m so happy to be back and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. It was a good day, I’m very happy.”

A big factor in Martinook returning to the team was head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Brind’Amour had conversations throughout the process with both Martinook and the team’s management, and was heavily involved.

For Martinook, his head coach showing that kind of belief and trust in him meant a lot.

“I’ve made it known many times that I’d go to battle any day of the week, any day of the year for that guy,” Martinook said. “He went to battle for me, so that’s something I can’t really describe. It’s pretty cool to have your coach involved in that process and help along that process. My exit meeting and a couple times I talked to him, he’s just like ‘Keep me in the loop, keep me in the loop, don’t do anything unless you talk to me. It was getting down to crunch time, I called him and the rest is history.”

Throughout his three-year tenure as head coach, Brind’Amour has managed to change the Hurricanes’ culture into one of winning, belief and putting in the hard work on and off the ice to get the desired results.

Everything Martinook does for the team both on and off the ice has played a vital role in that.

“With him, it was important,” Brind’Amour said. “I think he’s a big, big part of what we’re doing off the ice as well as on the ice. He was a part of these last three years of kind of righting the ship and getting us in the right direction. I was happy that I was able to convince him to stay. I didn’t think I had to convince him too much. It was a pretty easy conversation, but we need guys to bleed the colors, so to speak, and he’s one of them.”

The energy Martinook plays with on the ice, and his personality off the ice, has endeared him to both his teammates and the fanbase.

From the viral videos of him yelling “Mistah Svechnikov” at Andrei Svechnikov, to the relationship he’s formed with Emma Izzo, a young fan with down syndrome, Martinook has proved himself a vital part of the Hurricanes’ community, and one many were hoping to see return.

That includes the other members of the Hurricanes’ on-ice leadership group.

“I was super excited to see him come back,” Slavin said. “He’s a friend of mine, and you always hate to see friends leave the team, leave the organization. That’s part of it. When we saw that he signed, I know my wife was extremely happy. Her and his wife are really good friends, so from a hockey standpoint it’s awesome. He does bring so much to our team on and off the ice. He is one of the leaders, so it’s huge to have him back and be able to be a leader and continue to be Marty, who he is. We all know who he is. So it’s great to have that in the locker room.”

Martinook has also helped the many new players the Hurricanes have brought in to adjust and adapt to their new team, including defenseman Ethan Bear, who he trained with in Edmonton over the summer.

“He’s been huge,” Bear said. “Every time I have a question, I’ll just reach out to Marty. He’s good. He was in Edmonton, and that’s where I was training, so once the trade happened, he texted me right away and we just hit things off right away, and now we’re here.”

For Brind’Amour, as he looks to get an opening roster that could feature as many as nine new players ready to go, having someone like Martinook who can be relied on to make the new guys feel welcome and bring the team together is important.

“He’s done a great job with that,” Brind’Amour said. “Just the little things that make the team and he gets it from just reaching out and making people feel comfortable in this environment. That’s kind of what he does.”

The other piece of the puzzle that was important for Martinook, who has a young family, was the three-year term on the contract. There’s no doubt that Raleigh is home for him, and he’ll continue looking to help the Hurricanes take the next step with his future secure.

“I have a family,” Martinook said. “Both my kids have been born here. I think once you get into, I hate to say it, but the later part of your career, I’m 29, I’m not getting any younger, it’s definitely nice to have that security. Especially with little kids, I don’t want to be moving around all the time. I’ve said this, this is kind of like a second home to me, being able to get a house, put some roots down and meet some friends outside of hockey which is exciting. Whenever you can get some stability and security, it’s pretty big.”