NEW YORK (AP) — Alain Vigneault wasn't out of work for long.
Just more than four weeks after he was fired by the Vancouver Canucks, Vigneault took over as coach of the New York Rangers on Friday — replacing the blustery John Tortorella three weeks after his dismissal.
Vigneault edged out former Rangers captain Mark Messier, longtime former Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and others in landing the job as New York's new bench boss.
He was given a five-year deal.
"I was thinking about the opportunity to coach the New York Rangers, one of the Original Six teams," the 52-year-old Vigneault said. "There is not a chance I could pass that up. Honored and privileged I feel at this moment."
In 11 seasons as an NHL head coach with Montreal and Vancouver, Vigneault is 422-288-35-61 in 806 games.
He was officially introduced during a morning news conference at Radio City Music Hall, which had his name up on the famous marquee outside.
Vigneault was interviewed last week during the Rangers' organizational meetings in California and then met with team owner James Dolan in New York. Messier also had an interview during the club meetings out West.
"We had a list of 13 candidates and I narrowed it down to nine," said Glen Sather, Rangers president and general manager. "I interviewed two in person and four over the phone. It wasn't just between A.V. and Mark."
It is unknown if Messier will remain with the Rangers. He is currently a special assistant to Sather. Messier, a Hockey Hall of Fame player, lacks the coaching experience that Vigneault is loaded with.
Tortorella was fired after 4½ seasons with New York on May 29 — four days after the Rangers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Boston in five games. A year ago, the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out against New Jersey.
In an ironic twist, Tortorella was reportedly offered the job on Friday to replace Vigneault in Vancouver.
Speculation that Vigneault was about to be hired by the Rangers increased greatly last weekend, especially after he removed himself from consideration to become coach of the Dallas Stars.
"I want to win," Vigneault said. "Given the opportunity to come here, it was just something that I couldn't turn down. I did find out, though, that it is a lot easier to negotiate yourself a contract when you've got two teams that are after you than just one."
With that, he gave Sather a hearty pat on the back as those in the room broke out in laughter.
"I didn't particularly enjoy that part," Sather said with a smile.
Vigneault posted impressive credentials with the Canucks, ranking first on the franchise list in coaching wins, earning the Presidents' Trophy twice for having the most points in the NHL, winning six Northwest Division titles, and getting within one win of capturing the Stanley Cup in 2011.
In seven seasons as Vancouver's coach, Vigneault was 313-170-57 in the regular season but only 33-32 in the playoffs.
His final two seasons ended in disappointment as Vancouver was knocked out in the first round in both years — including a sweep by San Jose last month.
The Canucks hadn't been swept in the playoffs in 12 years. The early-round exits when they were the higher-seeded team, and losses at home at the starts of the series were cited by Vancouver president and general manager Mike Gillis as reasons for Vigneault's firing on May 22.
"I am coming here to win," Vigneault said. "There is no doubt in my mind that this organization is committed to winning the Stanley Cup. We've got a lot of great pieces here and we're going to try to improve so that we all get to where we want to be."
Messier captained the Rangers past the Canucks in the seven-game Stanley Cup finals series in 1994. Vancouver lost another Game 7 in the finals against Boston in 2011 — the Canucks' first trip back to the championship series since the loss to New York 17 years earlier.
Vigneault had a quick lesson in Rangers history as he toured the team's suburban practice facility.
"I saw some of the pictures from the last time this city won the Cup," he said. "It's real clear to me that there is no better place to win the Stanley Cup than here in New York."
Tortorella reached the playoffs in all but one of his five seasons with the Rangers, but his failure to get New York back to a championship level along with his combative nature were likely key factors that led to his firing.
Sather declined to give specifics for the dismissal, saying only that it wasn't one thing or particular incident that caused it.
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