It is an eclectic menu of coaching choices for the Rangers: respected bench bosses in Vancouver and Buffalo who were axed last season, two iconic NHL stars, a conditioning guru with an impressive minor-league record and a current coach who might be wooed out of the desert.
The Rangers, who repeatedly have declined to discuss the search, could begin to interview candidates to replace John Tortorella as early as this week.
Two other clubs with openings, the Canucks and Stars, already have spoken with candidates for their openings. Yet there is a sense in NHL circles that the sudden entrance of the Rangers into the market has tilted the ice. After all, coaching them is a very appealing gig.
Ownership has been willing to spend to the salary-cap ceiling. President and general manager Glen Sather isn't going anywhere, and coaches are handsomely paid and allowed to focus on coaching, because Sather insulates them from most corporate issues. On the ice, there's a world-class goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, a solid defense and a core of offensive talent waiting to be unshackled, led by Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan, Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin.
There is, however, pressure on Sather, 70, to make the right choice behind the bench because the team is at another crossroads. Neither Tortorella, who reinstituted a work ethic, or his predecessor, Tom Renney, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The last time was in 1994, when the Rangers won it all.
Sather will have a difficult decision. He could stay in-house with the captain of that squad, Hall of Famer Mark Messier, his special assistant for four years. Messier knows the organization but has turned down coaching offers in the past. Or Sather could go outside to fill it.
Messier has declined to comment, but multiple reports have indicated he is interested. Messier could have a real shot at the job, but there are caveats.
His coaching experience is limited to two international tournaments in 2010. Sather would need to bring in one or two experienced assistants who would run the daily operations, plot the X's and O's and have the ability to voice opinions.
Messier also has several business projects, including the conversion of the Bronx Kingsbridge Armory into a multi-rink hockey/skating facility.