The New York Rangers have yet to begin interviewing candidates to replace the recently dismissed John Tortorella, but the team's iconic former captain is emerging as a strong candidate for the job.
Mark Messier is expected to compete for the coaching vacancy, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com. Both the New York Post and New York Daily news reported Friday that he was interested in the position.
It is believed that Messier, who has two young children, is discussing the possibility with his family and is strongly considering pursuing the opening.
The 52-year-old Messier already holds a post within the organization -- he currently serves as the special assistant to team president Glen Sather -- but has no NHL coaching experience.
He is, however, responsible for leading the team to its last Stanley Cup championship in 1994, a historic run that ended a 54-year drought for the Rangers.
And he isn't the only big name to be bandied about, either.
Reports have surfaced recently about hockey legend Wayne Gretzky having interest in the job, though a source familiar with the situation told ESPNNewYork.com that it is unclear whether that interest is legitimate.
"I don't believe Wayne is seriously interested in coaching in New York," the source said. "He has a long relationship with Glen and with the owner. He would've reached out directly to them if this was something he really was interested in pursuing."
A spokesman for Gretzky could not be reached for comment.
Though the Rangers will entertain the possibility of promoting from within with Messier's name in the mix, the organization is also in the process of compiling and assessing other potential candidates.
A source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the Rangers sought, and subsequently received, permission to speak with both Dallas Eakins and Alain Vigneault, which was earlier reported by TSN's Darren Dreger on Friday.
Another veteran coach that is available is Lindy Ruff, the longtime Buffalo Sabres coach that was dismissed mid-season this year. The Rangers have not sought permission to speak with him, however, and there is some doubt whether they will pursue the veteran bench boss as an option.
With the Rangers' Stanley Cup aspirations and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in the prime of his career, Ruff may be a tough sell considering his Sabres missed the playoffs seven of the last 11 seasons in Buffalo.
Phoenix's Dave Tippett would also be an attractive candidate for the Rangers, though it's unlikely they will even have a crack at him.
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney would not say whether the Rangers asked to speak with Tippett, but he did confirm that he would not give that permission to "any such request."
"We intend to re-sign Tip and will use everything within our control, including time, to do so," Maloney told ESPNNewYork.com via email.
The Rangers will convene in La Quinta, Calif., for organizational meetings beginning June 10. Sather said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that he would like to have a new coach in place by the NHL draft, which will be held at the end of the month.
Despite reports that Tortorella was heading into the last year of his contract in 2013-14, ESPNNewYork.com confirmed via a source close to the coach on Wednesday that he signed an extension during the season. That means that the Rangers will still be on his hook for his salary for the remainder of the contract -- believed to be three years -- even once they name a new coach.