THE CONTRACT freeze placed on clubs since March remains with clubs, players and agents no closer to knowing when they will be able to lodge new deals.

But behind the scenes, particularly in the past month as list managers have returned to work at their respective clubs, discussions for new deals have picked up some pace.

For some players, the pause on new deals has been a positive thing. Some have used the extra time to get themselves fit, prove their credentials in different positions, or drag themselves off the canvas to be central to their sides.

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Whenever the halt on new deals is over and the salary cap and list positions for next year are finalised, this group of players will emerge in stronger negotiating positions.

But on the flip side there are others who might have signed new deals by now in an ordinary year, who have had injury-impacted seasons so far or whose form has seen them nudged out of their position or even the starting line-up.

Here's AFL.com.au's look at five players who fit into each group.

Player who have benefited from the contract freeze …

Levi Casboult (Carlton)
The strong marking key forward has been a sensation for the Blues this season, with the unrestricted free agent hitting some of the best form of his career. Casboult has shouldered the Blues' forward line without Charlie Curnow (and at times Harry McKay), booting nine goals from six games. Casboult has been on the market in previous trade periods but the Blues would be keen to lock him in given his efforts this year.

Andrew McGrath (Essendon)
McGrath is one of Essendon's clear re-signing priorities given his emergence as a midfield star. He was again among the Bombers' best against North Melbourne on Saturday night with 25 disposals and eight tackles, with his average at 22 touches a game. A potential future captain of the club and should be rewarded for that improvement in his new contract.

Brody Mihocek (Collingwood)
Collingwood had started discussions on a contract extension for Mihocek pre-COVID-19. He has been the Magpies' most effective forward from their up-and-down season, and sits in second place in the Coleman Medal race after six rounds with 12 goals, including a bag of four last week against Hawthorn. He may be unassuming but Mihocek is a reliable competitor and key plank for the Pies' flag hopes.

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Harry Perryman (Greater Western Sydney)
The youngster had opened talks on a new deal before the season but his value has increased in the early stages of this year after a brilliant start. He led the Coleman Medal after kicking nine goals in the first four games, is a settled member of the Giants' midfield and his value on the open market has certainly jumped as a result of his performances.

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Jack Steele (St Kilda)
Following back-to-back finishes on the podium of St Kilda's best and fairest, Steele has kept up that pace in his third season at the club. The tough inside midfielders is one of the Saints' most consistent players, being second for total disposals at the club this season behind Jack Billings.

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Cripps v Steele: Who won the battle?

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And players who haven't …

Tom Bellchambers (Essendon)
After struggling in the ruck against Carlton in round four, Bellchambers was replaced in the Bombers' side by Andrew Phillips who curtailed Brodie Grundy in Essendon's win over Collingwood. Bellchambers has lost grip on the hold of the first-choice ruck position at the Bombers, and last week played in their scratch match alongside Sam Draper, who is seen as the club's long-term ruck option.

Ben Brown (North Melbourne)
The Kangaroos spearhead has battled this season after a career-best year in 2019. Last year Brown booted 64 goals, but in six games so far in 2020 Brown has managed only seven goals. Coach Rhyce Shaw defended the key forward, blaming some of the Roos' delivery for his struggles. Brown's negotiations were well underway for a deal in March but were stopped in their tracks by the COVID-19 contract pause.

Jordan Gallucci (Adelaide)
In a regular season a club might have moved to re-sign its top draft picks from recent years to extensions early in the year before shifting attention to its next batch. Rules haven't allowed that this season, meaning Gallucci, who was the Crows' first selection at the 2016 NAB AFL Draft (No.15 overall) remains out of contract. He had been overlooked for selection early in the season before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.

Caleb Marchbank (Carlton)
It's been another frustrating injury-affected season for Marchbank, who hasn't managed to get on the field and continues to battle knee soreness. The former top-10 pick has talent but has struggled to get on the field consistently, never playing more than 16 games in a season. Another long absence could impact his next deal.

Toby Nankervis (Richmond)
Things always appeared likely to wait until later in the year before contract dealings opened up on the dual premiership ruckman. But after being overlooked for the Tigers' first two games back in the season restart, and then suffering a syndesmosis ankle injury that could see him miss two months, it hasn't been the perfect return for Nankervis.