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Alain Vigneault still focused after signing contract extension

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks

New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Even with a multi-year contract extension under his belt, Alain Vigneault hasn’t taken his eye off the prize.

“There’s only 30 jobs open, and I’m working my [expletive] off to win the ultimate thing; I’ve come close, and I feel like I’ve never been more driven,” the Rangers coach said Tuesday after the team confirmed reports on Monday that he and the Rangers had reached an agreement. “I know how privileged and fortunate I am to be in this position.”

The team did not reveal the financial terms, but a source familiar with the issue said the three-year extension was worth more than $12 million and will take him through the 2019-2020 season.

Vigneault, 55, has a 175-97-23 record since he was hired to replace John Tortorella on June 21, 2013, signing a five-year, $10-million contract at the time.

In the new pact, the final season of the previous one, 2017-18, was revised to create a new three-year extension.

Under his guidance, the Rangers have made the playoffs in his first three seasons, including two deep runs, and are on pace to make the playoffs again this spring.

General manager Jeff Gorton first brought up the possibility of an extension last summer, Vigneault said. “Jeff made it clear to me that he didn’t want me going into the last year of my deal [without an extension] and if I had any interest, and we started discussing this maybe a month ago. I gave it obviously a lot of thought, but I feel that with the young kids we’re bringing in, whatever you want to call it, retooling, I believe that we can win and compete in a very tough league. It was a pretty easy decision as far as, you’re a coach and you want to have a chance, and you’ve got a first-class organization.”

Down the road, the Quebec native, who coached in Montreal and Vancouver, said his style won’t change. “I’m not about gimmicks, I’m about the process, the culture . . . it’s about what needs to be done on a daily basis,” he said. “I really believe in empowering my staff, empowering the players, giving them the direction they need to do their job. When you do it the right way, it’s a good environment, where you can grow and hopefully have success.”

Vigneault, who is three wins from 600, leads all NHL coaches in wins (488) since 2006-07 and ranks fourth on the franchise’s all-time wins list.

“I hit 1,100 games [coached] a couple days ago,” Vigneault said. “I can honestly say, I learned every step of the way, stayed humble; I’ve taken my job very seriously, but I don’t think I’ve taken myself seriously. If you look at some of the things we’ve done, a lot of people wouldn’t have expected us to be where we are. It’s my job to improve the on-ice product. I know I need to continue to get better, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

As coach of the Canucks, Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2007 and oversaw a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 — as he did with the Rangers in 2014 — but came up short each time.

He was dismissed by the Canucks a month before the Rangers hired him over candidates Mark Messier and Lindy Ruff. “When they told me it was time for me to leave in Vancouver, I didn’t think it was,” he said. “I really believe with the suggestions I was making we would have gone in the right direction but wasn’t given the opportunity.”

After 3 1⁄2 years behind the bench with the Rangers, Vigneault is getting more time, and another opportunity.


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