Trent Barrett's squad overhaul at Canterbury continues to take shape with the club announcing the signing of Penrith playmaker Matt Burton from 2022.
Burton had been linked to the Bulldogs since ex-Panthers assistant coach Barrett was announced as new coach in July and is set to partner another new recruit, Kyle Flanagan, from 2022 onward.
It's understood the Panthers are reluctant to release Burton for the 2021 season despite the Dubbo junior telling the club he intended to link with the Belmore outfit in 12 months' time.
The Bulldogs announced on Wednesday morning that Burton had agreed to a deal for three seasons from 2022.
Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill was delighted to have added someone of Burton's calibre.
"Having someone of Matt's ability want to be part of what we are building here at Belmore is exciting for everyone involved at the club and all our members and fans," he said in a club statement.
"Matt is a great talent and someone that was highly sought after, so we are delighted that he has chosen to join our club and be part of what we believe to be a new beginning for the Bulldogs.
"With a new coaching staff that is working extremely hard with our players this pre-season and the addition of several new faces we believe that Matt's signing for 2022 is another massive step forward for this club."
Penrith were philosophical about losing one of their best young prospects.
"While we're disappointed with this outcome, it's important we respect Matt's decision," Penrith's general manager, Matt Cameron, said in a statement on the Panthers website.
"He gave particular consideration to a contract extension at Panthers before opting to continue his career at another club.
"That said, Matt remains fully committed to Panthers for the upcoming season and we're excited to see what the team will achieve in 2021."
Arguably one of the hottest prospects on the open market since clubs could begin negotiating with off-contract players on November 1, Burton was restricted to five games in 2020.
He came off the bench on three occasions and filled in for Nathan Cleary after he was suspended for two matches over his infamous TikTok incident on Anzac Day.
Cleary's halves partner Jarome Luai, who went toe-to-toe with Burton for the No.6 jersey vacated by James Maloney last pre-season, ended up playing in every game for the Panthers in 2020.
With a calm temperament and strong kicking game, Burton starred for NSW with a man-of-the-match performance in the under 20s State of Origin clash in 2019 alongside Panthers teammates Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu.
He was called into first grade a month later for a dream debut that saw a depleted Panthers outfit upset a handy Cronulla side during the representative period.
Burton's move in advance follows confirmation on Tuesday that Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford would link with the Knights from 2022.
Clifford, 22, will head to Newcastle after the Cowboys knocked back a request for an immediate release earlier this month.
The Knights have since re-signed injured veteran Blake Green on a one-year deal as they look to cover all bases in the halves following a horrid injury toll in 2020.
Clifford is expected to partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves, although the Knights star is yet to put pen to paper on a contract extension beyond next year.