For those who think that the Bruins’ salary-cap concerns are limited to next month when Marc Savard and Marco Sturm are ready to return to the lineup, you should know that next year’s cap could bring even more difficult decisions for general manager Peter Chiarelli.

It obviously ruins the festive mood surrounding the Bruins’ hot start to this season to bring up the club’s financial situation beyond this season, but it’s worth taking a look at next year — especially if you’re expecting the Bruins to be a top-tier team for the long haul.

This season the Bruins are carrying more than $1.5 million in bonus overages from last season because of Tuukka Rask’ excellent rookie season, according to Next season, they figure to have a similar penalty (or a bigger one) considering their current roster includes four players with incentive bonuses in their contracts. If Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand continue to perform the way they have through the season’s first 12 games, it’s going to cost Boston.

The NHLPA decision to vote to extend the current collective bargaining agreement over the summer gave the league’s 30 teams a bonus cushion again — allowing teams to count this year’s bonuses toward next season. However, next season there will be no cushion.

As Matthew Wuest of reports on, the lack of a cushion will make for a tight cap fit for the Bruins and a number of other teams. As Wuest explains, the Bruins have 17 players under contract for next season at a hit of $51.2 million, not counting this year’s bonuses (which only count if they are met by the possessing player).

“With the cushion gone,” Wuest writes, “the Bruins will need to chart their course for 2011-12 with Seguin taking a sizeable $3.55 million chunk out of their cap instead of this season’s more manageable $900,000.”

Other teams mentioned in the piece include Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Detroit. If the cap doesn’t rise from the current $59.4 million, Boston will be faced with some hard choices as far as what players to retain. That’s where the farm system comes in, as Boston will have to try to fill in around signed veterans with young players on cheaper, entry-level deals. The Bruins have been boasting about their prospects for a couple years now. We might find out pretty soon if they’re going to be able to live off what they drafted.