THE HUNT for the next Dan Butler is on.
Butler's new side, St Kilda, faced his old one, Richmond, in Friday night's semi-final at Metricon Stadium, in a season he transformed from a VFL regular into an All-Australian squad member.
He's a shiny example of what's possible on rival clubs' scrapheap.
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The small forward market is becoming a feature of the player movement period, if not quite to the level of the annual ruck merry-go-round.
Among those to change clubs last year in free agency or a trade were Butler, Eddie Betts, Lewis Taylor and Sam Gray, while Tom Papley wanted to get to Carlton, but has since pledged his allegiance to Sydney.
Orazio Fantasia is set to be the third big-name Bomber to depart, after completing independent medical testing that was forwarded to Port Adelaide and Adelaide.
The injury-prone forward is electric at his best, but hasn't played more than 15 games in any season since his breakout, 39-goal campaign in 2017.
Fantasia is the classic 'pre-agent' who qualifies for free agency next year, but his situation has bubbled for about 18 months.
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Essendon football boss Dan Richardson is bracing for Fantasia to follow teammates Adam Saad (Carlton) and Joe Daniher (Brisbane) in announcing he wants out.
"He hasn't requested a trade. He has expressed periods of homesickness and he's certainly got a very close connection, family wise, back in Adelaide," Richardson told SEN.
"If there was a request forthcoming for him to want to return there, then I don't think that would be a surprise, but we'll cross that bridge when it comes to it."
Beyond Fantasia, there are some interesting out-of-contract small forwards who might be on clubs' radar.
Another player who's been besieged with soft-tissue setbacks, Geelong's Nakia Cockatoo, is weighing up the possibility of being the Lions' next fix-it project.
Saint Jack Lonie's played 13 times this season, including last week's finals win over the Western Bulldogs, who've been linked with the goalsneak despite drafting Cody Weightman last year.
Others still without a deal for 2021 include Fremantle's Lachie Schultz – who played every game this season – Giant Zac Langdon and Sydney's Ben Ronke.
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Richmond's Jake Aarts has played all 14 of his career games in 2020 and is in negotiations for a new two-year deal, but was dropped for the Tigers' semi-final.
Three Demons – Jayden Hunt, Toby Bedford and Kade Chandler – may have varying appeal, while Boyd Woodcock (Port Adelaide) and Jamaine Jones (West Coast) are also hoping for a contract.
Delisted ex-Docker and Sun Brandon Matera is one to watch as well, after kicking 170 goals in 144 matches.