As the offseason for our Rangers progresses, we are going to take looks at the pending free agents (and some players still under contract) and see how the Rangers may deal with them this coming summer. I am starting this series off with Ruslan Fedotenko because in the beginning of the season, I made a bet with a Penguins fan that he would get to 15 goals. He did not, thus I lost the bet. As part of the bet, I had to agree to admit that I lost the bet.
When the Rangers signed Ruslan Fedotenko to a professional tryout in September, many looked at it as an afterthought. Sure, he would push the kids a bit, maybe be a decent spare part, but he surely wouldn’t contribute much. Then, following his tremendous preseason –one where he outplayed Dane Byers, Dale Weise, and Mats Zuccarello– he was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million. Fedotenko earned that contract.
After signing with the Blueshirts, Fedotenko had a relatively slow start to the season, netting just a goal and four helpers in October. His November was highlighted with a five point (2-3-5) in three game effort, but it was his play without the puck, specifically with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust that stole the show. Fedotenko just meshed with the two grinders, and their chemistry made them the most dangerous fourth line in the game. In fact, their play was so good, they were –as a unit– moved up to the third line. Their consistency and great play was one of the only constants for a team that was absolutely ravaged by injuries in the winter months.
Fedotenko did it all for the Rangers through middle of January. He was skating, he was playing defense, he was killing penalties, and he was scoring at his career average pace (15 goals, 35 points). But in the second period of the Rangers 7-0 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Fedotenko took a hit from Mike Komisarek, and sprained his right shoulder. Initially scheduled to be out two-to-four weeks with the injury, Fedotenko suffered a major setback, needing an emergency appendectomy, a surgery that would set him back another few weeks. His shoulder would keep him out for another two games after re-aggravating the injury in his return. After both injuries healed, Fedotenko missed a total of five weeks, and 16 games.
But it didn’t appear that Fedotenko was truly 100% after his second return. He was held to just three points, and zero goals, for the entire month of March. He got things together in April, netting a key goal in the Rangers 3-2 win over the Flyers to start the month, and added two assists to cap the regular season. In the playoffs, with Ryan Callahan injured, Fedotenko was eventually moved to the top line, where he found chemistry with Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik, setting up (beautifully) the Rangers second and third goals in Game Three.
All in all for the season, Fedotenko finished with a line of 10-15-25 in 66 games. Not quite the 15 goals I predicted , but not everything important about a player’s impact can be seen on the stat sheet. Fedotenko finished the season as one-third of one of the Rangers most important –and surprising– lines. During a period when the Rangers were dressing the entire CT Whale squad, Fedotenko was a steady presence for the Rangers.
The Rangers decision with Fedotenko should be a relatively easy one. Fedotenko meshed very well with Boyle and Prust throughout the season, and then again with Dubinsky and Gaborik in the playoffs. Assuming Fedotenko asks for just a modest raise, or for a similar base salary with bonuses, he should be welcomed back to the Rangers with open arms. I highly doubt that a player with under 30 points will command much more than $1 million on the open market, but you never know what will happen. I fully expect Fedotenko to be with the Rangers next year.