Could Derek Stepan Decide Ruslan Fedotenko’s Fate?

September 29, 2010, by

When the Rangers made their second round of cuts, they left 27 players in camp, for what we now know will be 23 (24 if you include Drury on IR) roster spots. Working with the 24 players that will be kept, there are very few spots left on the roster to be had. Of these 24 spots, seven will go to defensemen, and two will go to goaltenders, leaving 15 spots for forwards (including Drury). With what appears to be 11 forward spots locked up, assuming Erik Christensen and Brandon Prust are locks, there are five forwards battling for the final two spots on the roster.

The forward battle is a much more complicated battle than defense because of Chris Drury’s status, and the number of NHL forwards left for so few spots. With five forwards (Brian Boyle, Ruslan Fedotenko, Todd White, Derek Stepan, Tim Kennedy) battling it out for the final two spots, it is likely that the third and final cut won’t occur until Drury returns from his broken finger. Thus, the Rangers will likely make two cuts at forward after tonight’s game, and a third a few games into the season, leaving 14 total forwards once Drury returns. The only forward of that group that simply has not impressed is White. It’s not that he’s playing poorly, it’s just that he seems relatively invisible. If White is one of the cuts, that leaves four guys remaining for that final cut.

I’ve already drawn the ire of a lot of Ranger fans (and a lot of Penguins fans) for my defense of Ruslan Fedotenko, and I’m about to draw this ire again. Personally, I believe Fedotenko has played very well, and has earned a spot on the roster for a year, but that’s not where I’m headed with this. I believe that Fedotenko’s fate is no longer in his own hands. His fate lies in the hands of Derek Stepan, and how well he rebounds after a mediocre game in Detroit on Sunday. Stepan has proved he has top line center potential. Should Stepan rebound and have a stellar game, it looks like he will remain with the club until Drury comes back, and probably longer. If that is the case, then it is likely that Fedotenko will be cut, as he simply would not have a place on the team that already has an abundance of third and fourth line players under contract.

However, should Stepan have a repeat mediocre performance, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get sent to Hartford, and spend a full year there. Sometimes, you need to look at the future, as well as the present, when making tough decisions. Playing Stepan on the top line with Alex Frolov and Marian Gaborik is a risk. Stepan is just 21 years old, and still has a lot of maturing to do, even though he has clicked with both wingers. Should his play slip, will fans call for his removal from the top line? If Tortorella decides to remove him from the top line, and thus the top powerplay line, how will that affect his confidence? Where will he be slotted? There are so many questions that arise if he struggles.

For a team that simply is not a Stanley Cup contender this season, barring a plane crash involving the entire Eastern Conference, it makes logical sense for the Rangers not to rush their prized prospect. Stepan will be a top line center during his career, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him eclipse the 80 point mark a few times in his career. But rushing Stepan can lead to so many problems, and can certainly hamper his development to the point that Ranger fans would want him gone. Of course that is the worst case scenario, but it has happened before. Stepan is best served getting guaranteed minutes on a top line, top powerplay unit, and top penalty killing unit if he is to truly develop into the player we all hope he can be. If he can’t be guaranteed that in the NHL, because there is a focus on winning now, then he is better off getting those minutes in Hartford, where he can also build some chemistry with Evgeny Grachev.

Entering tonight’s game, Stepan not only controls his own fate, but likely that of Ruslan Fedotenko as well. It’s quite simple; play well, make the team, and probably send Fedotenko packing. As for Fedotenko, my opinion is well known, to put it lightly. But it doesn’t look like he controls his own fate anymore. While the likely scenario is that he will be extended a contract offer with Stepan going to the AHL, there is that outside chance Stepan plays well enough to force management to bid adieu to Fedotenko. Much more will be known after tonight’s game, but it is a rare occasion when a kid has his own fate, and the fate of a veteran, in his own hands.


  1. highslot says:

    You need to watch more hockey, plain and simple. If I have to look forward to Ruslan Fedotenko. Anyone here in the market to buy 2 seats for Ranger games?

    • Dave says:

      You need to not make snide comments about someone you don’t know.

    • Jordan says:

      LOL You’re going to sell seats because Ruslan Fedetenko may make the team?

      Where the hell were you last year when Higgins and Kotalik sucked? Wow.

      • highslot says:

        I was there suffering along with you. It has come to a crossroads, no more garbage and that means Fedotenko, aka “mr blistering wrist shot, as his mom would say.

  2. Walt says:

    Personally I would rather see the kid Stepan play, and if he has some short comings so be it. He is our future, so give him the shot, and let the re-treads go by the way side!!!!!

  3. Dave says:

    Highslot, get over my opinion of Fedotenko. This post is about making sure Stepan is developed properly.

  4. jurgenno88 says:

    Highslot, Derek Stepan is the long term and yes, Fedotenko is not. But Fedotenko CAN be a short term aid to this team. Are Rangers fans willing to have a mediocre season and lose a lot and put up with the ups and downs of the kids? Im not so sure. Fedotenko, unless Stepan really impresses the next two preseason games, is likely to be a ‘safer’ option.

    There’s no shame in a year in the AHL if thats where Stepan starts his pro career. Guys like Duncan Keith played alot in the AHL and it didnt hurt Dubinsky or Callahan to spend significant time there either.

  5. unreal says:

    Im with Walt and highslot. Fedotenko can be a short term aid??? How? Is he a clown, is he going to amuse me while the Rangers get creamed? I see what u say Jurgenno, no shame, I’ll agree…. but not with the likes of Ruslan Fedotenko. And If they do sign this piece of crap, 500,000 no more or Sather needs shown the door. Watch he’ll score another goal…by luck and Slats will give him 2 million.

    • Dave says:

      With all the other signings Slats has made, Fedotenko at more than minimum salary is the one that gets you outraged?

  6. jerry says:

    i just think it would not hurt us to have stepan as the first line center what do we have to lose- nothing.hes an upgrade from any body else there as far as im concerned accept maybe anisimov if he can step far as feds goes we all have just accept he might be on the team and its not our choice.if it happens so be it and lets see what he brings to this team before judging him.ill tell ya one thing i remember him in tampa and he use to kill the rangers when they played us.

  7. Bettman's Nightmare says:

    I’ve never seen this much outrage over a guy projected for the 3rd line.

    The logic is quite sound. Of the 5 players, Stepan is THE ONLY prospect. If they aren’t showing their ability in training camp and the preseason, they are the first choice to get sent down, because their development and contract will permit it without major loss. I like Stepan, but not enough to want to see him get lost in the Tortorella Line Dance if he slows down mid-season.

    I also don’t want to see him slowing down mid-year and finishing poorly, like Del Zotto, because he wasn’t quite ready for the full NHL season. Stepan hasn’t played more than 60 games in a year since his first year at Shattuck.

    • Dave says:

      Yea, seriously. You would think I had said to trade Stepan for Fedotenko with all this backlash. He’s just a third liner, and can possibly put up 15 goals.

      It’s more important for Stepan to develop properly than it is to see him on the top line in the NHL this year.

  8. Section 121 says:

    Let’s face it, the moment Fedotenko was invited to camp, he made the team. Torts wants players he has experience manipulating. I wouldn’t be surprised if this talk of Richards comes to fruition. Dubi will be stunted at LW this year with no positive reinforcement from Torts and he will be sent to Dallas with another piece.

    • Dave says:

      Richards the player doesn’t bother me, it’s the cost to get Richards that bothers me. The Rangers will regret it if they send Dubi packing for Richards.

      However, I am going to disagree that his growth will be stunted by moving to wing. He will have less responsibility from a creation standpoint and can just play the game without worrying about creating for linemates.

      • Section 121 says:

        I certainly don’t want to see Dubi go but I fear it may happen. I don’t see Cally as a trade option because of the leadership role they’ve given him.

        I think Dubi’s creativity and play would excel if he is at center. I think the doubt they’ve placed on him has led to issues of consistency, not the other way around.

        • Dave says:

          I agree with you, plus he’s one of the better faceoff guys on the team. I think he has more potential than Cally, who has peaked.

  9. Chris says:

    I dont know how you can consider Christensen a lock when he has what a whole 30 seconds of standout moments thus far.

    As for ‘Todd White has not impressed’. He most certainly hasnt been bad, and hes been increasingly solid with each minute of each game…

    Tim Kennedy cant possibly be a lock. He has done NOTHING to impress. Hes barely noticeable except when hes trying to play physical and gets knocked on his ass. We already have guys who have been with the team that are guys that are gritty and work their asses off. We dont need another one.

    Fedotenko, as much as I dislike him, has been better than Christensen, White and Kennedy… however, I would much rather see Stepan get a spot. Theres usually a reason that Veteran players cant get contracts and are forced to ‘try out’.

    Any player on a tryout should have to be OUTSTANDING in order to take a spot from someone who was already in the organization (See: Stepan)… and Fedotenko, while relatively solid has been FAR from outstanding.

    • Chris says:

      Sorry… my post is a bit off-topic of Stepans development and more about my thoughts on the players who are assumed to be ‘locks’.

      • Dave says:

        I have an issue with half of the “locks”, don’t you worry lol.

        • Chris says:

          Ok… your posts make a lot more sense to me now.

          I thought they were purely opinion based, but they are opinion based AFTER taking into consideration and accepting what NYR seems to be settled on doing.

          • Dave says:

            Correct. Personally, I think Stepan should be taking the spot of EC, but that’s just my two cents.

            Since EC is a lock, there’s no need to rush Stepan. It’s a bit of back-handed logic, but it makes sense in my head.

            • unreal says:

              Do you think they just like EC because of his “shootout” abilities?

              • Chris says:

                It possible… and hes the kind of guy I could get behind liking. But hes just so damn inconsistent. It drives me nuts.

                Dubi is inconsistent, too… but for some reason he still tugs at my heart strings (in the most heterosexual way possible).

                And I still want nothing to do with Kennedy. I dont understand why he was even signed.

                At least white was the product of ditching Brashear… so I cant get ‘too’ mad about that.

              • Dave says:

                I think they like him because he shows flashes of skill. That goal against the Devils really stands out in people’s minds.

                I still don’t get the obsession with him though.

              • unreal says:

                I watched some of his games with the Penguins, and he actually looked like a holy terror, then the inconsistent play. Caught a few games when he was in Anaheim… showed no interest. Then he gets here, and showed a little flash of great play. I think he is a head case, to be honest. Its like he knows the talent is there, but dosent have the passion to do it all the time. He seems robotic? Agree or disagree. Funny some people like Kennedy. But I don’t want Fedotenko. There has to be something other than him.

    • Dave says:

      I actually do not like EC, my tweets have been documenting that. I don’t understand the fascination, but the coaching staff loves him apparently.

      White I’m biased on, so take what I say with a grain of salt. That said, he hasn’t been bad, it’s just he hasn’t been noticeable.

      Kennedy I agree with you on, but again, the coaching staff apparently loves him.

      As for Stepan/Fedotenko, I really think it will boil down to Stepan forcing his way on the club, the way MDZ did, as opposed to being “just an option”. If he forces his way on the roster, then I will personally show Fedo the door. But since there is depth, there is no need to rush him. There was no NHL depth for MDZ, that’s why he played right away.

      • jerry says:

        dave, me and you agree on this whole christensen thing people act like hes gonna be our savior one the first for stepan the only reason i push for him is give him a couple of games at least,we could always send him down he cant be any worse than christensen.

  10. opie says:

    (stpan)”hamper his development to the point that Ranger fans would want him gone”

    let me ask you when is the last time slats has listend to the fans the only time I can think of was when we got sloppy seconds back

    • Dave says:

      Slats doesn’t have to listen, but when fans turn on a player, it affects their play. Whether or not it SHOULD affect their play is entirely different of course.

  11. jerry says:

    and as for dubi, ill get alot of flack for this but hes very inconsistant and i wouldnt miss him.if we get richards out of the deal then bye bye.

    • Section 121 says:

      Although Cally is a great guy, he’s a third liner playing second line and PP. Since he flies on the forecheck and hits everything in sight they give hime the “A” (similar to Brown with the “C” in LA). Nice guy and great energy guy but he’s the one I’d rather see go b/t Dubi and Cally.

      Dubi has 65 to 75 pt potential and I remember Mess said he had captain potential when he first arrived. I’ll take Mess’ word over Torts any day.

      • jerry says:

        sec-potential sounds great but with dubi i dont think he gets over that hump(sorry).at least cally plays every shift game after game and admitts hes a third line grinder.also i just dont like dubi every time i seen someone try to get his autograph he runs away like hes gonna get murdered and its not like the people were really bothering him one kid was about 9 or 10 and he treated the kid like the plague.

  12. Brian says:

    White due to his age, salary and recent injury history will most likely be one of the cuts. I’ve felt all along that his main competition for a center spot is EC and we have better options at the wing than White. I have no problem with EC making the squad – he’s cheap, young and has offensive talent – he simply needs to improve his defensive game and work along the boards. I have no problem with seeing what he does over the course of a full season. However, if he can’t outplay a 20 y/o rookie in Stepan then he doesn’t deserve the chance to center our top line. As far as Stepan is concerned, if he earns a spot then he should get it. He most likely will hit the rookie wall at some point this season, but that doesn’t necesarrily mean that it’s a bad decision to play him. Torts just has to manage him properly and spell him with other options such as AA, EC, and Prospal when needed.

    As far as Fedotenko is concerned I was apalled when I heard that he was granted a tryout – He was the 4th Pens winger in terms of TOI last year and he scored only 11 goals and was a -17 w/ Malkin as his predominant center. This was not good.

    On the other hand, he has come into camp in excellent shape and he looked very good against the Debbies last week. He can play either wing, has a good shot, has good size, he’s 31 y/o, has two cup rings, is familiar with our division, and would come relatively cheap – say a one year deal at $750 K. Considering our lack of adequate secondary scoring over the past several years Feds may be a cheap, low risk option.

    The problem is that he would best be utilized on the second line in a scoring role, and if we are truly playing our young guys for future dividends then aren’t we better off giving his playing time to a guy like Cally?

    • unreal says:

      Yes, don’t waiver on Fedostinko…. He’s like a bum on the street that will do anything now, then he’ll get signed… and u know his story. Young guys better than Fedotenko

      • Brian says:

        I’m all for playing the kids – I hope that White and Eminger get sent down and if Feds doesn’t make the team then I won’t cry. But he’s a Torts type of guy and considering how well Prospal played last year (2nd on team in pts) I would consider it if it doesn’t sacrifice our future and cost much. Grachev and MZA are NOT ready yet and Prospal has a bum knee – we are going to need goal scoring depth to help Gabby, Frolov, Dubi and Cally.

  13. BEAR VIEWING says:

    I surely understand what Dave is talking about pushing Stephan into a spot he might be not ready for and what can happen to a young guys confidence when they go into a slide. But I have to say he really seems to be the best guy for the job right now. Other than Derek Arti is the only other topline center we have to go between gabby and frolov. Just go with Stephan.

    • Jordan says:

      Anisimov isn’t a top line center. He has never proven to be even close.

      Can he be in the future? Sure. But he’s far from it right now.

    • Brian says:

      If Stepan earns the spot then give it to him – you just have to manage him properly – no different than MDZ last year. You try and place the player in a position to succeed and work to his strengths while teaching him the aspects of becoming a well rounded player.

      Players like Malhotra and Lundmark were the products of poor management and veteran-focused coaching that doomed their careers with the Rangers.

  14. Jordan says:

    Personally, I’d cut White and Boyle.

    Then I’d see who does best between Stepan and Kennedy until Drury comes back. The better player stays.

  15. Mikeyyyy says:

    The past needs to stay in the past.

    Lumdmark and malhotra were rushed and ruined. That does not mean that derek will get ruined being demoted to the 2nd or 3rd line. The kid has legit skills and should be allowed to play. Fedotenko will not be in ranger blue.

  16. jurgenno88 says:

    this debate was a great read. For the record my opinion is I hope Stepan is ready and can make an impact offensively but if he needs AHL time so be it – just dont rush him. Fedotenko on this team is not the worst addition in the world.

  17. Mikeyyyy says:

    Well it can’t get worse than Wade. Keep ruslan or call up Wade. Lol.

  18. Mrs. Fedotenko says:

    So, you Fedotenko haters out there, lets hear your reasoning now why you don’t want Feds as a Ranger. Granted, he is no Malkin, who did have a terrible year last year (for a super star!) As one who watched most of the Penguin games, he only clicked when playing with Crosby. As for Feds, he played much better when playing on Stall’s wing. And yes, I’d rather have Malkin on my fantasy team than Fedotenko. But I don’t think you Rangers have the $$$ to go get him! For the price you will have to pay to sign Feds, you will get a solid 2nd/3rd liner. As for the ridiculous comment about him only scoring when his team is up 5-1, you obviously have never followed the guy. So unreal, how about a little love for the number one star of the game tonight with 2 primary assists.
    Hugs and kisses to you boys….
    Mrs. Fedotenko.
    P.S. The real Mrs. Fedotenko doesn’t speak enough English to jump into your blog!