Recchi/By S. Bradley

You didn’t need a “Peter Chiarelli decorder ring” to know that when the Bruins general manager talked about progress in talks with his potential free agents, he was mostly referring to forward Mark Recchi and defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

The word from other sources with knowledge of the situation backs up Chiarelli’s assertion.

Recchi, 42, passed on addressing the media on breakup day just days after spending a long time speaking after the Bruins’ Game 7 loss to Philadelphia. In that postgame scrum, he never committed to returning as a player or a Bruin other than to say he’d take some time to think about it and then see if Boston wants him. Chiarelli is consistently tight-lipped when asked to talk about his interest in specific players, even when those players are still under his control.

Today it was relayed to TheBruinsBlog.net that there is mutual interest in another return engagement between Recchi and the Bruins, and discussions have been positive so far. If you remember, last summer, Recchi waited until July 2 to re-sign, so I’d say there won’t be any need to panic if Recchi fails to re-up before July 1.

When you look at the way the Bruins are built, they really need Recchi to stay in the fold. No one’s a better source of knowledge and experience for either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, and no one’s a better example for every other player in black and gold. You can’t underestimate how important it will be to insulate Hall/Seguin with a couple veteran mainstays. Assuming he’s willing to return for something close to his $1 million cap hit of last season, he’d be one of the biggest bargains in sports.

Replacing Recchi, should he go elsewhere, would be a difficult task. The only unrestricted free agents I could find that compare are Teemu Selanne and Bill Guerin. Selanne, 40 next month, made $2.6 million last season and he’s unlikely to leave Anaheim, especially for the East Coast. Guerin, who’ll turn 40 in November, was a $2 million cap hit last season. He has a history, obviously, with the team and the region, and would be almost as great a mentor as Recchi. But if the Bruins can get Recchi for less, they have to do everything they can to conserve cap space. Recent reports also said that Pittsburgh would like to re-sign Guerin.

The Boychuk situation is still status quo, with his agent Gerry Johannson reiterating to TheBruinsBlog.net today what he told other reporters last week: he remains “positive” and “optimistic” about getting a deal done to keep Boychuk in Boston.

Again, I wouldn’t sweat too much if Boychuk hits the open market. Historically, when Chiarelli wants to keep a player and he keeps talking to that guy’s rep, the deal gets done. It just might not come together as fast as some would hope because of the Bruins’ cap situation. It seems more and more like priority No. 1 is to clear cap space, most likely by dealing $5 million backup Tim Thomas. Chiarelli also can’t really have seven defensemen under contract at no less than $1 million each, so he’ll probably be looking to clear that logjam as well between now and July 1.

The upcoming draft weekend should be a wheeling-and-dealing bonanza for Chiarelli, as he tries to mold the team that he’ll put on the ice in the fall.