Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
With every win and every increase in the lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference, it's getting harder and harder to avoid thoughts about 1994 when it comes to the Rangers.
There are plenty of differences between this team and the only one since 1940 to bring a cup to Madison Square Garden, but the key similarity -- their place in the standings at the top of the stretch run -- is increasingly all that matters.
With the Feb. 27 trade deadline rapidly approaching, that means there are going to be more and more questions about whether the 2012 Rangers will use it the same way their predecessors did.
In 1994, the Rangers traded away key contributors Tony Amonte and Mike Gartner at the deadline to bring in players like Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan. The moves were risky, but they wound up paying off on both the large (Stanley Cup) and small (Howie Rose's call of Matteau's double-overtime clincher against the Devils) scale.
Will the Rangers take the same risks this time around? The big name on the radar is Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash, the kind of goal scorer that the team could really use on its top lines and especially to help a power play that has sputtered for much of the season.
There are other names being bandied about, mostly depth players who would help the team navigate through the possibility of injury down the line, while Nash is the only potential game-changer being rumored as a Rangers target.
The price tag would reportedly be in the neighborhood of Brandon Dubinsky, prospect Chris Kreider of Boston College and a draft pick -- hefty but not unthinkable for a player who can jolt the offense up to the next level.
That's the price in terms of players, anyway. There's also the matter of the six remaining years on Nash's contract at a sizable cap hit as he moves past 30, the kind of contract that can quickly become an albatross in the harsher cap era we now call home.
After years of focusing only on big names and the top of the roster, the Rangers have done an admirable job of building up the overall strength of the organization over the last few years.
Kreider and a first-round pick fit into that model, especially when the team could potentially go out and sign Zach Parise as a free agent this offseason while using Dubinsky or others in deals to fill other holes.
When all is said and done, the biggest difference between this year and 1994 is that the '94 team was constructed around veterans that made it imperative to take any chance they could to win right then and there.
This year's team doesn't fall into the same mode and that certainly impacts the urgency there might be to go hellbent after a title.
That sounds good until you realize that there really isn't such a thing as a window of opportunity in sports. Next year could bring injuries, bad luck or a dozen other things that make it impossible for the Rangers to find their way back to Stanley Cup contention.
Of course, the counterargument to that is continuing to build as deep an organization as possible so that you can roll with whatever comes by plugging in different players without missing a beat. Trading them now means they won't be here to fill gaps tomorrow.
And round and round we go. Ultimately, there isn't a right or a wrong answer right now because both approaches are pretty defensible on Feb. 16.
Come June, though, there's a pretty good chance we won't be saying the same thing.