Whether the Rangers do or do not straggle into either one of the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference is no longer the organization’s biggest quandary.

The correct question has become: Who are the real Rangers?

Is the core group, struggling through a bad season, still, in the long run, a legitimate Stanley Cup contender or is this a franchise sliding backward?

Either way, Wednesday’s trade deadline does not offer a quick fix.

The immediate needs for this season have grown too large and time has grown too short – just 13 contests remaining in this lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule. A top-four defenseman is needed to effectively take the minutes lost with Marc Staal out indefinitely. A big, booming shot for the anemic power play is a must. Quality forward depth is still an issue even with Mats Zuccarello re-signed.

But the young talent other organizations seek – forwards Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider, and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto – are still untouchables.

Let’s face it: Struggling center Brian Boyle, with one goal and one assist in 30 games, is not going to net much on the trade market.

Or, the Rangers could take back a bad contract. But that’s a fool’s play with the salary cap lowering to $64.3 million next season. And Stepan, who has developed into the team’s No. 1 center, Hagelin and McDonagh, at times the team’s No. 1 defenseman, all need new deals.