Evgeny Kuznetsov’s NHL Return and His Impact on the Carolina Hurricanes

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After being signed by the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline, Evgeny Kuznetsov has already positively affected the team beyond his goal last night against the Florida Panthers

Before his trade, Kuznetsov hadn’t played an NHL game since February 5, 2024. The forward entered the NHL’s Player Assistance Program that same day. After his clearance from the program on March 2nd and his return to Capitals practice, Kuznetsov was waived by the team. On March 8th, he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2025 draft. 

For the Carolina Hurricanes, a team notorious for not making trade moves (hence GM Don Waddell’s famous “We like our team” quote), a trade for Kuznetsov was one fans didn’t expect. The trade with Pittsburgh for Jake Guentzel was expected to be the only major move for the Canes this year. Within less than a week of his signing, Kuznetsov has made an impact for the Canes on and off the ice. Kuznetsov has become a Raleigh hockey media darling through his willingness to speak publicly about his return to hockey and what it means to him. During his postgame report with Bally Sports’ Hanna Yates, Kuznetsov stated that he “hadn’t felt (the support of the Hurricanes organization, fanbase, and city of Raleigh) like that in a long time” and that he is “trying to be (me), enjoy every day, and work hard.” 

For hockey fans, Kuznetsov is quickly becoming one of the most well-known Canes players and a fan favorite. The line Guentzel-Kuznetsov-Necas has become a line synonymous with great play. In last night’s postgame interview, Canes right winger Seth Jarvis called the line “great on defense” and “electric.” Kuznetsov’s bird celebration after goals, priorly hated, is now one celebrated. In a video released by the Canes’s Twitter account, coach Rod Brind’amour admits to “hating that bird thing when I had to watch it, but I love it now.”  After last night’s Storm Surge, the team surged Kuznetsov while repeating the famous motion. 

But there is a double meaning to Kuznetsov’s return. Mental illness and addiction are still highly stigmatized, especially within certain subsets of communities. Despite the rise of more NHL players openly discussing their mental health, such as Clint Malarchuk, Corey Hirsch, and others, the sports world is still one in which anything deemed to be weak is not acceptable on a broader scale. For Kuznetsov to return from the Player Assistance Program, come back into the NHL playing at a high level, and publicly discuss the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health is a major deal. Speaking again to Yates during intermission, Kuznetsov stated that he “was dealing with some big issues, so the support is huge for me” and that he “is living (his) best days and trying to take it day-by-day and take everything that’s possible.” For younger players, fans, and anyone else in the hockey world, the degree of openness Kuznetsov has maintained about coming back to the sport is one demonstrating that it’s okay to talk about the sides of life that aren’t okay. It’s okay not to be okay, as the common saying goes. Speaking out publicly about mental health is hard. Being vulnerable, especially with extra layers of toxic masculinity and hockey culture, is incredibly hard. By destigmatizing mental health and mental health treatment in the hockey world, a greater impact is automatically held. What Kuznetsov has done to do in the public eye is beyond brave – it demonstrates the importance of destigmatizing mental health. Even if Kuznetsov never scores another goal as a Cane, his importance on this franchise is already here, a week after he came to Raleigh. 

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DeBrusk Scores Twice in 5-1 Victory, Kampf Scores Lone Leafs Goal | 4/20/2024

In game one of the playoffs for the Maple Leafs and Bruins on Saturday, April 20th, the Maple Leafs fell behind 5-1. The Bruins came in with a strong start and ended with a great 5-1 victory to begin playoffs. David Kampf scored the lone goal for Toronto, Jake DeBrusk scored two goals and Johnny […]

Read More
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers Playoff Preview

It’s the best time of the year. The 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs are here. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, this is the seventh consecutive season that they have made the postseason. Last season was their only first-round exit in the current run, as they fell short in six games to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Entering […]

Read More

ECHL Game Recap: Wheeling Nailers vs Indy Fuel Series | 04/20/2024

The Indy Fuel met with the Wheeling Nailers Friday night in Indianapolis for game two of their Kelly Cup Playoff series. Indy won 5-2 in the first game, with lots of heavy hits and challenging plays. The Wheelers want to tie this series as they return to their barn for game three. Looking to tonight’s […]

Read More