Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe started down the road of considering the group of players that the Carolina Hurricanes must either re-sign or replace.
First up was Dougie Hamilton who looms as the biggest off-season decision for the Hurricanes and also Hamilton himself. You can find that article HERE.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers Jordan Martinook.
From day one, Jordan Martinook has been a tremendous addition to the team’s leadership and the local hockey community. He is adored by teammates and fans alike and earned the letter on his jersey from his leadership and role as someone who pulls the team together. In terms of leadership, character, fabric of the team and just being an all-around great person, Jordan Martinook is a good fit for any team.
As a player, Martinook burst onto the scene in Raleigh scoring 15 goals including five game-winners in his first season with the Hurricanes in 2018-19. Those career highs won him a two-year extension at $2 million per year. In the two years of that contract, he has scored two goals in 45 games and four games in 44 games in 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively. His 24-point pace for an 82-game season is a decent pace for mostly fourth-line ice time and now power play minutes.
Many things have changed since Martinook’s arrival, but two are maybe most significant in considering whether to re-sign or instead replace him. First, the Hurricanes have seemingly effected the the culture change needed and have become a regular playoff team. That accomplishment which Martinook clearly played a role in has the team looking for ways to improve to climb a couple rungs higher on the ladder. In addition, the Hurricanes now figure to be up against the salary cap every year such that every dollar matters.
The changed situation makes for contrasting ways of considering Jordan Martinook for 2021-22 and beyond.
Is he exactly the type of leader that this team needs to take next steps?
Martinook is the veteran who somehow was a perfect match from a young 18-year old future star as Svechnikov navigated multiple adjustments to the NHL, a new team a new country and city and everything else. Martinook was the one who went full emphatic on the Hurricanes bench when the team needed a boost to push past a stubborn Nashville Predators team in the first round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs when that series was headed in the wrong direction. He was also the one who did video check ins from the road, rallied the team for an ice cream shop visit and knew the importance of dialing things down between playoff games with a young team finding its way in the 2019 NHL Playoffs.
His emotional IQ is off the charts. To fans, the “Mistah Svechnikov!!!!” thing is just fun. But I think it can be underestimated the degree to which Martinook generated that whole thing which has grown as a trigger that flips the switch before the game starts. No doubt the team has other leaders, but personally I think the role that Martinook fills is unique simply because I think he more than anyone else reads the pulse of the team and knows what it needs and when.
Or is he a replaceable fourth-line player whose slot could be upgraded and whose need as a leader is a bit diminished with the young core now ready to take that baton?
If Martinook departs, I think more than anything it could be because of the contract he signed after the 2018-19 season. His $2 million salary is enough above the league minimum to matter and makes it hard for the team and him to find a middle ground salary-wise that fits his slot/role but is not an insult to him in terms of a sizable pay cut.
Leadership and character aside, Martinook is a capable but not special fourth-line forward. He fits the bill as an energy line player but not necessarily more so than other players who could cost $1 million less. Further, as the Hurricanes try to find ways to improve enough to take another big step forward, his slot is definitely one that could be spent hoping to make the team better.
Where do I land?
Role-wise, I think Jordan Martinook fits very well as a #13 forward. If he wants to see what he helped build with the Hurricanes through and is willing to accept a somewhat reduced role, he fits well as a player who is ready to go when needed to provide a spark or to fill in for injured players. Especially on nights when that slot is in the press box, it does not make sense to put a prospect who is better-served playing regular minutes in the AHL in this role. And with the inevitability of injuries over the course of a long NHL season, I would expect Martinook to play 40-50 games in such a role despite technically being in a slot that is out of the lineup. And if he embraced this role, he has built enough respect in the locker to continue in his role as a leader.
The questions are twofold. First, would Jordan Martinook be willing to accept what could be a reduced role and still be able to maintain his leadership position? Or would he prefer to take on a bigger role maybe as a leader on a team similar to the Hurricanes a few years ago? Second is trying to find a middle ground on salary. As noted above, the single biggest obstacle to re-signing Martinook could be the $2 million salary on his last contract. Ideal would be to pay a #12 or #13 forward at or near the league minimum. Maybe because of his history and leadership, the team stretches a bit to $1.2 to $1.4 million, but that is still a sizable pay cut from the previous contract.
I really think his role as a leader and possibly being a key ingredient for pushing over the next hump is underrated. For as much as Jordan Staal is the right guy to be the captain, he really has yet to lead the team to a next level wearing the C. The team was young and maybe not ready and there was the weird two captain thing, but regardless the team was unable to push up into the playoffs with Jordan Staal as the captain. When it did, Justin Williams was the captain who was integral to driving the culture change needed and leading the team three rounds deep in the playoffs. In the two seasons since with Jordan Staal as the captain the team has yet to reach a higher level twice winning a round against a lesser team but not being able to defeat a true Cup contender.
Where I land is that I think Jordan Martinook is underrated as a leader and part of the fabric of the team. As such, I would overpay slightly (but still a bit less than his current contract) for a one or possibly two-year deal to keep him in the mix as a #12 or #13 depth forward.
What say you Canes fans?
1) With a couple years of success, do you think the need for Jordan Martinook is decreased with younger players ready to step into that type of role?
2) Leadership aside, where (if anywhere) would you slot Martinook on a 2021-22 Canes team that is seeking ways to improve?
3) Where do you land on trying to re-sign Jordan Martinook? What would you offer in terms of salary and term? Or would you consider moving on to try to upgrade?