The Bulldogs have announced the signing of Penrith winger Christian Crichton on a three-year deal from 2019 in welcome news for the club a day after CEO Andrew Hill revealed they would not be able to sign any high-priced recruits for the next three years.
Hill and Bulldogs chairwoman Lynne Anderson on Thursday revealed that of their top-30 roster, they had 25 contracted for 2019 leaving five spots up for grabs.
He emphasised they still had wiggle room to sign those five but that they would not be much more than the minimum wage – which for top-26 players on a club's roster is $105,000 in 2018 and will rise over the life of the collective bargaining agreement signed with the RLPA late last year.
While the Bulldogs will be under the $9.4 million salary cap for 2018 and the $9.6 million for 2019, Hill said they would not see "clear space" until 2021 meaning they could not chase high-profile players until then.
It is believed Crichton's deal is around $150,000 a year.
"We have more than the minimum spend for those five players is all I will say," he told NRL.com.
"We've been monitoring Christian for a little while and been following his progress. We think this is quite an astute buy for the club.
"Signing a player of Christian's ability and potential is great news for Bulldogs fans. He provides us with a quality option in the outside backs and is part of our overall recruitment plan moving forward. We look forward to him joining us at Belmore next season."
It is understood the Penrith Panthers are feeling the salary cap squeeze just as hard as the Bulldogs are for next year.
The Belmore club will be forced to release several players who are off contract at the end of this year including Greg Eastwood, Josh and Brett Morris and Matt Frawley, although the club will not confirm names.
Hill did confirm that the Bulldogs were still paying part of James Graham and Sam Kasiano's contracts even though they had been let go to St George Illawarra and Melbourne respectively, to make the club cap compliant in 2017.