Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley, John Souttar: The 16 out of contract Hearts players and how important are their renewals
The coming weeks and months are set to be a busy one for manager Robbie Neilson and sporting director Joe Savage as they notify those who don't have a future at the club, while doing all they can to ensure key stars remain at the club.
There has been speculation surrounding a few Hearts players in recent weeks, including Craig Gordon, who alleviated any exit concerns amongst fans by penning a new contract until 2024 on Hogmanay.
Following that renewal, we look at the state of play of those 16 individuals with fewer than six months remaining on their deals.
The essential deals
Aside from Gordon, the club’s most consistent performer over the past couple of seasons has been Stephen Kingsley. The defender is a key component which makes the back three work effectively, capable of defending in wide areas and stepping out with the ball and joining attacks. Speaking earlier in the season, the 27-year-old enthused about being at Hearts and back in Scotland near family. Like Gordon, an extension would be cause for celebration amongst fans.
The one that is getting away
Normally, John Souttar would be alongside Kingsley in the group above. But it is becoming increasingly apparent his future lies away from Gorgie. Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City have been strongly linked with a pre-contract move, while Rangers have also been touted. Robbie Neilson, speaking on Boxing Day, said he was still hoping to convince the centre-back to stay but it looks unlikely with the player, who has had his injury issues, capable of earning a big contract south of the border. What is important now is keeping him at the club for the remainder of the season with the club not up for entertaining “mediocre” bids.
On the tier below Kingsley, sits Craig Halkett, Michael Smith and Peter Haring.
Halkett has had a very good season so far, showing his worth at the centre of a back three and has been one of the league’s most dominant players in the air. The club and player are keen to get a deal done and it would be a just reward for his influence on the campaign so far.
Smith will likely trigger a clause in his contract giving him another year soon, while Haring has reminded fans just how good a player he is of late. The Austrian is a fine passer of the ball and gives the team more direction than another other midfielder.
Up in the air
Andy Halliday has been a useful signing since arriving at Hearts last season. His versatility has seen him play left-back, wing-back and in midfield. He doesn't fit into the profile the club are looking at for new signings. If he was to be kept on it would be to provide depth and experience.
Prior to scoring the winner at Dundee earlier this month, Jamie Walker seemed to be heading for the exit door with St Johnstone linked with a move. He has now featured in the last two games. Long-term it is hard to see his future being at Tynecastle but it could very much depend on who arrives in January and if he can have an impact in the second half of the season.
Jamie Brandon has reportedly had his deal extended for the remainder of the season with a loan move on the card after returning from a long-term injury. It is unlikely, however, his contract will be extended beyond that.
It isn't revealtory to say that Armand Gnanduillet, Jordan Roberts and Mihai Popescu won't be contracted to Hearts beyond this season. In fact the French striker could in fact exit in January. He hasn't featured in the past two matches and has started just three league games all season. The Evening News reported that the club are willing to listen to offers for him. After a positive start to his Hearts career it simply hasn’t worked out. He struggled to get a look in ahead of Liam Boyce. It was hoped he would be a handful and provide the team with a different attacking dynamic but that has not transpired.
As for Roberts and Popescu, both are currently out on loan and way down the pecking order. The former, currently with Motherwell, has featured just once for the club since being replaced at half-time in a league game against Alloa Athletic back in January. As for Popescu, his last involvement before a switch to Hamilton was part of a B side in the SPFL Trust Trophy.
The young guns
Euan Henderson has had a very productive loan spell at Alloa, netting 11 goals in 15 appearances and is due back at Hearts in January. The 21-year-old would suit one of the wide forward positions in the 3-4-3 but a Championship loan with a view to exiting Tynecastle in the summer is perhaps more realistic.
Chris Hamilton, Connor Smith and Scott McGill are all getting game time in loan spells but are at ages where you’d have expected them to be in and around the Hearts first-team.
Aidan Denholm, doing well on loan at Berwick Rangers, will still be a teenager come the end of the campaign and could well be handed another year to progress.
Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.