Alain Vigneault, who was behind the bench for the Vancouver Canucks for seven seasons and targeted by the Rangers last month to replace former coach John Tortorella, has accepted an offer to become the next Rangers coach, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
The final details of a multi-year contract for Vigneault, who won six division titles in Vancouver and guided the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, where they lost to Boston, were being ironed out Saturday and an official announcement was pending, possibly as soon as Sunday.
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Madison Square Garden and team executives declined to comment Saturday on the day of Game 2 of the Finals in Chicago. The general protocol within the league is not to upstage Stanley Cup finals games with team business.
Vigneault, the Quebec City native who won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach in 2007 and led the Canucks to the Presidents' Trophy in 2010-11 and 2011-12, met Tuesday in California with president and general manager Glen Sather and front office personnel. He came to New York on Friday to further discuss terms of a deal, the source said. He was also wooed by the Dallas Stars, who reportedly offered him a contract, but withdrew his name from consideration that day.
Vigneault is as driven and prepared as Tortorella, those who know him say, but with a much different public demeanor, looser when dealing with the players behind closed doors and promoting more offense than the shot-blocking, defensive style demanded by Tortorella in his four-plus years on Broadway.
Under Vigneault, the Canucks were 313-170-57, the most wins for any coach in franchise history, but they were 33-35 in the playoffs, including being swept by the sixth-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round this year.
A defenseman for two seasons in St. Louis, Vigneault, who will be the 35th coach of the Rangers, has an extensive coaching resume. He started his career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was an assistant coach for the Ottawa Senators for three years, beginning in 1992, and took over in Montreal for three seasons. The Canadiens were 109-122-35 during his tenure.
On May 29, the day Tortorella was fired, Newsday was told by people familiar with the search that Vigneault and Phoenix's Dave Tippett were the top candidates, based on their experience. Ex-Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who was dismissed in February after 15 years; Hall of Fame center Mark Messier, who has been Sather's special assistant for four years, and AHL coach Dallas Eakins, before he signed with Edmonton, also were in the mix.
Vigneault's assistants have yet to be determined. It was unclear Saturday whether Messier, who was considered for the spot despite no coaching experience, will join the staff or continue his role in the front office. Mike Sullivan, a Tortorella confidant, is not likely to return.
Tortorella and Ruff are candidates for both the Canucks and Stars posts, along with Los Angeles Kings assistant coach John Stevens.
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