Neil Smith was sure of two things when he began his day on March 21, 1994: His New York Rangers were atop the NHL standings, and they weren't good enough to win the Stanley Cup.
There was a third thing: With the NHL Trade Deadline hours away, he had work to do.
The fifth-year general manager arrived in the summer of 1989, a couple of months after New York was swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins, extending the Rangers' drought to 49 years.
Smith cut his hockey teeth about 30 miles away from Madison Square Garden with the New York Islanders during their run of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. The last three of those, as well as the trip to the 1984 Stanley Cup Final, included playoff victories against the Rangers, with the fans on Long Island chanting "19-40!," reminding their big-city rivals of the last time they had won the Cup.