Penrith are not ruling out a reunion with Canterbury playmaker and Origin representative Matt Burton as the Panthers set their sights on the next wave of contract calls for their star-studded roster.
The Panthers will part ways with hooker Apisai Koroisau and forward Viliame Kikau from 2023 to the Tigers and Bulldogs respectively, while the likes of NSW Blues trio Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Liam Martin are able to assess their options from the end of this year.
And while Penrith will push to retain their star trio to new deals, they will continue to keep an eye on Burton's situation at Belmore.
The versatile half-centre hybrid joined the Bulldogs on a two-year deal from this season and is understood to have declined an option in his favour to secure his stay in the blue and white for a third term.
It's been made known that Burton is happy to wait on Canterbury's decision to appoint a full-time successor for Trent Barrett as the club's senior coach, with the former Panthers pair having reunited at the Bulldogs for this season.
With Barrett now out the door, speculation has ascended as to whether Burton will remain at Canterbury or consider rival offers.
The 22-year-old is set to be a heavily sought-after name come November, with Penrith keeping the door open on welcoming the Dubbo product back into the fold.
“Sure we’d love to have him back,” Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher told News Corp.
“But how do you fit him in the salary cap? That’s the problem. He’s a good bush kid who came through our system. We’re not saying we’re not going to look at it.
“We’ve already lost Api (Koroisau) and Billy Kikau for next year.
“We’d like to keep all of them but you can’t. With Matt Burton, I think he only signed at Canterbury for two years knowing he might want to come back at some stage.”
Should either To'o or Crichton show any shade of a potential Penrith departure, the Panthers' interest in Burton is sure to rise as they look to fill a void out wide.
His capability to play in the halves and out wide will be a tantalising prospect for any keen suitor, while age is well and truly on his side.
After his side's 18-6 loss to Cronulla on Saturday, Burton and the Bulldogs will be hopeful of returning to winning ways when they face South Sydney on July 17th, with those two fixtures bookending Origin Game 3 and a subsequent bye for Canterbury.