Head coach Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks watches from the bench in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 7, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Canucks 4-3 to sweep the series 4-0.
Photograph by: Christian Petersen, Getty Images
While the Vancouver Canucks continue to look for their new head coach, their old one has likely found his new team.
Alain Vigneault and the New York Rangers have agreed in principle on a contract that could be made official today in Manhattan.
The New York Post reported Sunday that the delay in confirming Vigneault’s hiring may be due to discussions between the Rangers and Canucks over the two years remaining on the 52-year-old’s contract when he was fired May 22, two weeks after Vancouver was eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight National Hockey League season.
The Rangers, eliminated in the second round, fired John Tortorella as coach one week after Vigneault was dismissed.
Tortorella was interviewed last week by Canuck general manager Mike Gillis, and it will be ironic if each team’s castoff is deemed essential by the other club.
Los Angeles Kings’ assistant coach John Stevens, long considered the front-runner for the Canucks’ job, also met last week with Gillis. But the volatile Tortorella may be a better fit with the Canucks short-term, as a new coach will be under immense pressure to win immediately with an aging, flawed lineup that both Gillis and Vancouver owner Francesco Aquilini believe should challenge for a Stanley Cup next season.
If it’s not a good time, the new coach won’t be here for a long time and Stevens may have more appealing options than joining the Canucks.
Whomever Gillis hires will inherit Vigneault’s winning streak of five straight division titles. Vigneault is easily the most successful coach in Canucks’ history, amassing a 313-170-57 record over seven seasons and coming within one win in 2011 of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
But Vigneault’s playoff record is a dismal 1-10 since Game 5 of that final against the Boston Bruins, and the Canucks were easily swept 4-0 by the San Jose Sharks in May.
These recent playoff failures did not dissuade other teams from pursuing Vigneault, who reportedly turned down a five-year offer to the coach the Dallas Stars for the chance to lead a better team in one of the world’s great cities.
Vigneault met Friday with Rangers’ chairman Jim Dolan after flying to Palm Springs earlier in the week for a formal interview with New York general manager Glen Sather.
Sather first showed interest in hiring Vigneault a decade ago, and the coach’s resume hasn’t dimmed at all since then. He is a three-time coach-of-the-year finalist and won the Jack Adams Award in 2007 after his first season with the Canucks.
Unless the deal falls through, Vigneault’s new contract will reflect his elite status among NHL coaches as the Rangers will make the man from Gatineau, Que., one of the highest-paid in his profession.
Vigneault is believed to have earned $1.25-1.5 million this past season in the last year of his previous contract with the Canucks, and the two-year extension Gillis agreed to pay him only one year ago presumably contained a raise.
Typically, teams hiring a coach still under contract to his previous team assume the entire cost of the new deal, except in cases where the coach’s new salary is lower than his old one. This is not believed to be the case with Vigneault and the Rangers.
Vigneault’s top assistant in Vancouver, Rick Bowness, was also in demand around the NHL and agreed two weeks ago to join the Tampa Bay Lightning as Jon Cooper’s associate coach.
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