After taking part in a Garden press conference yesterday morning along with team owner Jeremy Jacobs and his son, team principal Charlie, Bruins president Cam Neely dropped some ominous and none-too-subtle hints that the team hopes some of its key free agents — a list headed by the unrestricted Nathan Horton and the restricted Tuukka Rask — are prepared to accept what might be termed a “hometown discount.”

“I think our players understand what we’re trying to do here,” Neely said. “With the cap dipping a little bit next year, to be able to ice the team we’d like to ice becomes a little bit of a challenge — with everybody looking for a bump (in pay).

“I don’t blame them for looking for that. But I know this is a great place to play. We have the backing of ownership to try and compete to win every year. I think our players know that. Hopefully there’s a common ground we can get to. I feel confident we can.

“We’ll try to do everything we can to try to keep our group together that we feel should be kept together. To try and accomplish that is going to take a little bit of give-and-take on both sides. We want to be fair with everybody; we just hope they enjoy playing here and enjoy the opportunity to win (a) championship.”

Meaning: If Horton is looking for a raise from the (prorated) $5.5 million in this past season’s contract, it will be difficult for the B’s to keep him. And if Rask is also aiming for the same salary ballpark — which he is certainly due after his sensational regular season and playoffs — his negotiations could get sticky.
Looking at capgeek.com, any fan easily can see the B’s predicament. Even after subtracting the expiring 2012-13 contracts (Horton, Rask, Andrew Ference, Jaromir Jagr, Kaspars Daugavins, Jay Pandolfo, Wade Redden, Aaron Johnson and Anton Khudobin), the B’s have only $5.8 million in 2013-14 cap space.

The money simply isn’t there to sign Rask, Horton, a backup goalie, and a spare forward and defenseman. Not even close. So with free agency opening Thursday, the B’s have decisions to make very soon.