Latrell Mitchell's potential exit from the Roosters could prove another complication rather than circuit breaker in the NRL's multimillion-dollar contract stalemate.
As reported by NRL.com on Tuesday night, the Tricolours are willing to release Mitchell immediately should a rival club work out a reasonable financial settlement, which would leave the Roosters with further cash to retain their biggest names or make a serious splash in the player market.
The premiers have already been linked to Broncos young gun David Fifita along with arch-rivals South Sydney, but Brisbane remain quietly confident they can keep Fifita given his family ties up north and bond with several members of their rising pack.
The Roosters' withdrawal of their two-year extension offer for Mitchell on Tuesday night sent the rugby league world into a spin, with several clubs distancing themselves from a play for the Kangaroos centre on Wednesday.
Canterbury have long been linked with a multimillion-dollar bid for Mitchell for 2021, and remain in the market for genuine star power in 12 months time.
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An immediate offer for next year though is made difficult by the fact the Bulldogs have already spent much of their 2020 salary cap and filled 29 spots in their top 30.
Meanwhile, Rabbitohs general manager Shane Richardson told NRL.com "we haven't got any interest in Latrell Mitchell" when asked on Wednesday, while Penrith officials insisted Mitchell's name had not come up in internal recruitment discussions.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire played a dead bat on Thursday morning, but didn't dismiss the prospect of going after Mitchell in due time.
Newcastle too are unlikely to have the funds to go after the 22-year-old without significant roster upheaval, rookie coach Adam O'Brien conceding as much after his first training session at the Knights.
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"I think any team in the comp would be lying if they [said they] wouldn’t be interested in him, but the salary cap … is the biggest variable in this," O’Brien said.
Each of the Rabbitohs, Tigers and Panthers have room to move in their salary caps, though Souths are waiting on a verdict on Sam Burgess's medical retirement – a decision which could leave them with up to $4 million to spend over the next four years.
The NRL's decision on Burgess is expected to come before Christmas, leaving the Rabbitohs in a holding pattern for now.
The Tigers too have more than $1.5 million freed up for next year from Ben Matulino's medical retirement and Ryan Matterson's release.
NRL.com understands Roosters premiership-winner Zane Tetevano is one potential front-row target for the joint-venture, while Gold Coast pair Jair Arrow and AJ Brimson have long been in their sights as well.
However the Tigers won't make any significant moves until Maguire returns from New Zealand camp next Monday.
The Panthers have a cache believed to be more than $600,000 after moving on Reagan Campbell-Gillard, James Maloney, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Wayde Egan and Waqa Blake since the start of the season.
A front-rower, five-eighth or centre shapes as the most likely recruitment target for Penrith, but the club is happy to bide its time for the right recruit if need be.
Western Sydney rivals Parramatta are still waiting on an answer from Matterson after tabling an estimated $1.5 million, three-year offer last week to the ex-Tigers back-rower.
Elsewhere the Warriors and Cowboys also have room to move in their caps.
North Queensland have been holding out around $800,000 for a decision on whether Valentine Holmes returns to the NRL in 2020, while the Warriors are among the suitors queuing up for Fifita and Melbourne's man mountain Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.
As for the Roosters and their replacement should Mitchell move on before next season, young centre Billy Smith is highly regarded at the club.
The 19-year-old made his NRL debut against the Dragons earlier this year having been signed out of rugby stronghold Scots College, where teammate Angus Crichton plied his trade as a schoolboy.
Along with Mitchell, the Roosters have a slew of top-line talent coming off contract in 2020 who are able to field official offers from rival clubs, headlined by co-captain Jake Friend, and props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Given the variables in play right across the game in multiple scenarios, one fell swoop such as a definitive move for Mitchell could be followed by several others in quick time.
Or, as has been the case since the November silly season kicked off, NRL fans could well be twiddling their thumbs for a while until the next star resolves their future.