LOCKING away stars Elliot Yeo and Jeremy McGovern on long-term contract extensions has become West Coast's No.1 priority as the Eagles' strategy to balance a tricky list transition begins to take shape.
By maneuvering to stockpile draft picks during the NAB AFL Trade Period, the Eagles signalled their intention to regenerate what was the competition's oldest squad in 2017 by attacking next month's draft with five selections inside the opening two rounds.
But the dramatic list overhaul after a cavalcade of retirements will have the additional benefit of clearing significant salary cap room for crucial contract negotiations.
West Coast is poised to open discussions with Colin Young – who manages club champion Yeo and runner-up McGovern - within the next month.
Both All Australians are due to fall out of contract at the end of 2018 and are set for lucrative paydays after last re-signing three years ago.
Following a sensational breakout campaign at half-back, Yeo, 24, could command a deal in the region of $700,000 to $750,000 per year.
McGovern, who is set to become a restricted free agent, might attract an offer closer to $900,000.
The 25-year-old has emerged as the AFL's best intercept marking backman since he last put pen to paper, and would theoretically earn more than rising defender Jake Lever, who joined Melbourne from Adelaide for about $3.2m over four years.
About to hit his prime, McGovern would be expected to join star ruckman Nic Naitanui, dual Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy – both contracted until 2019 – and possibly future captain Luke Shuey (2022) amongst the club's heftiest earners.
While securing Yeo and McGovern will be critical to West Coast's future, they aren't the only big-name Eagles coming out of contract in 12 months.
Hard-running Victorian wingman Andrew Gaff is also set to become a restricted free agent at the end of next season.
The Eagles emphatically shut down rumours Gaff could be trade bait this year, and rate the 25-year-old leadership group member highly.
Ahead of busy negotiations, West Coast list manager Brady Rawlings told AFL.com.au he was "highly confident" that Yeo, McGovern and Gaff would remain in blue and gold beyond next season.
"We feel all those players love this footy club, they love the coach and we love what they bring to the table," Rawlings said.
"Obviously they're massive priorities, players that are coming out at the end of '18 who are high-quality at AFL level.
"It's something we've been speaking about for quite a while internally.
"We'll have a plan in place for each one of those players."
Besides that big-name trio, the Eagles need to stump up cash for a slate of other important re-signings.
Ever-reliable skipper Shannon Hurn, promising Victorian youngster Liam Duggan and South Australian ruckman Scott Lycett are also out of contract at the end of next year.
The Eagles have moved the wages of retirees Matt Priddis, Sam Mitchell, Drew Petrie, Sam Butler and Jonathan Giles off their books, helping free-up salary cap space for the looming negotiations.
Four-year deals signed by former club champions Mark LeCras and Eric Mackenzie in 2013 have also been cleared, with the veteran duo recently re-committing only on one-season extensions.
Meanwhile, Sharrod Wellingham, another of Young's clients, and small forward Josh Hill are in contract limbo and would be expected to be offered reduced wages if new deals are tabled.