Door remains open; Penguins might bring back Recchi

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A lot of things have changed since the Penguins traded Mark Recchi to Carolina March 9.

His desire to play here apparently has not.

And while the Penguins are not ready to commit to bringing him back, they aren't ruling it out, either.

General manager Ray Shero was traveling yesterday but sent word through a team spokesman that nothing had changed since earlier in the week, when he said, "I'm going to see how this whole thing shakes out" before deciding whether to pursue Recchi.

The Penguins are looking for goal-scoring wingers, and Recchi, 38, had 28 in 83 regular-season games with the Penguins and Carolina in 2005-06. He added seven goals and nine assists in 25 playoff games.

Agent Rick Curran said five clubs have expressed interest in Recchi, who won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes. Carolina had an option to bring Recchi back for $2.28 million but did not exercise it, making him an unrestricted free agent.

A decision on whether the Penguins will court Recchi is expected around the middle of the month; Recchi, whose permanent residence is here, and his family are vacationing and not due back until late next week, which also is when Shero is scheduled to return.

By then, Shero should have been able to explore fully any options he has via free agency or trades stemming from other clubs' free-agent signings. At the very least, he acknowledged that bringing Recchi back is under consideration.

"I'm going to see where this shakes out with potential trades, what we end up with," Shero said. "I never say, 'Never.' Put it that way."

Curran made it clear that he had no problem with the deliberate approach the Penguins are taking.

"Ray wanted to explore everything so that whatever conclusions are reached, both sides will have done their due diligence," he said.

Recchi is good friends with former Penguins general manager Craig Patrick, and that relationship helped to lure him back from Philadelphia as a free agent in the summer of 2004.

Although Patrick was replaced by Shero this spring, Curran said Recchi "chose Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons" two years ago, and that Patrick's departure would not affect his interest in playing here again.

"It wasn't that long ago that he went through this whole process," Curran said. "And I suspect he's going to feel the same way [he did in 2004]. The same thought process that went into [Recchi's decision then] remains."

Recchi, a member of the Penguins' 1991 Stanley Cup team and longtime crowd favorite at Mellon Arena, picked up some tarnish on his image last season after word circulated of verbal skirmishes with some younger teammates.

Recchi's relationship with Sidney Crosby was purported to be particularly strained, but Crosby said last evening that he would not object to Recchi returning.

"I wouldn't have a problem with it at all," Crosby said.

Curran acknowledged that Crosby and Recchi had some run-ins, but downplayed their significance.

His take: Recchi spoke up when he felt a younger player said or did something that was out of line, but simply was fulfilling part of his mandate as a veteran.

"When he was brought to Pittsburgh, part of the reason was to mentor some of the younger guys and give them the benefit of his experience," Curran said.

"He considers that everyone has to be accountable [for their actions]. If anything needs to be said, Mark isn't hesitant, at this stage of his career, about saying it."

If Recchi's words wounded Crosby, whose maturity far transcends his 18 years, the scars apparently weren't permanent.

After Recchi was traded, Crosby asked him to autograph the stick Crosby used to score his first NHL goal, because Recchi had assisted on it. And when Carolina won the Cup, Crosby text-messaged him a note of congratulations.

If those two are reunited, a lot of the other faces Recchi sees -- both among teammates and management -- will have changed from the time he left four months ago, let alone when he arrived in 2004.

"Ray's trying to put a team together," Curran said.

"Mark realizes it's a different situation than when he came in a few years ago."

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Dave Molinari can be reached at 412-263-1144.


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