Field narrows in Rangers' coaching search

NEW YORK -- The Rangers' coaching search continues, and their list of candidates has been whittled down with Wednesday's news out of Pittsburgh of Dan Bylsma's extension.

Another candidate the Rangers had sought out, former Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, was announced as Ralph Kruger's replacement in Edmonton on Monday.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather, looking for a coach to replace the recently dismissed John Tortorella, was believed to have been keenly interested in Bylsma. The 2011 Jack Adams Award recipient is no longer available, though, as Penguins general manager Ray Shero bucked mounting pressure following his team's third-round exit and backed Bylsma.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Shero announced that the Penguins had given Bylsma a two-year extension.

So, who is left?

Alain Vigneault, the former coach of the Vancouver Canucks, appears to be the front-runner, although the Rangers are not the only team in hot pursuit.

It is believed that the Stars are also enamored with Vigneault, though they have recently expressed interest in others (such as Tortorella, as ESPNNewYork.com reported Tuesday).

Vigneault interviewed with Sather and fellow Rangers executives at the team's annual organizational meetings in La Quinta, Calif., on Tuesday.

The Rangers have also obtained permission from Buffalo to speak with Lindy Ruff, though it is not immediately clear whether they have set a firm date to interview the former Sabres coach.

And let's not forget the Rangers' own Mark Messier, who emerged as a bit of a surprising candidate on the heels of Tortorella's dismissal two weeks ago.

The former captain, now an executive within the organization, expressed interest in the position, though he has no NHL coaching experience.

The Rangers could also be interested in Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, should he become available. Though Coyotes GM Don Maloney told ESPNNewYork.com via email recently that the organization intends to keep Tippett, the team's tenuous future could be an obstacle.

During a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the possibility of relocation for the Coyotes. Quebec City and Seattle are believed to be the front-runners should the team leave Glendale, but multiple sources indicated to ESPNNewYork.com that Tippett might not necessarily be on board should the club move.

On a conference call with reporters following the Tortorella decision, Sather said he'd like to have a coach in place by the NHL draft on June 30.