New Zealand Rugby's retention efforts hang in the balance.
This juncture in the four-year cycle is always the toughest, and the next three months of negotiations will reveal which side of the ledger the national body leaves vulnerable stocks for next year and beyond.
Super Rugby's return always brings hope – the breath of fresh, hungry, emerging talent combines with those jockeying for coveted World Cup spots to create an exceptional player pool, this year at least.
But when you stop and consider Hurricanes midfielder Matt Proctor, the 26-year-old, one test All Black, is set to earn £450,000 to £500,000 (NZD$958,000) annually from next season at Northampton, the extent of retention challenges quickly become apparent.
In this such situation, NZR simply have no hope of competing.
Unlike previous World Cup years, when the traditional southern exodus occurs, this time around Japan's recruitment drive adds another concerning dynamic.
While the Japanese season structure for 2020 is yet to be confirmed, clubs there are already coming in hot with high value offers under the expectation they will host two domestic campaigns (January to May and August to December) in one calendar year.
The Herald understands fringe All Blacks, those sitting between squad numbers 24 to 38 and particularly those in the midfield or loose forward areas, could clear in excess of $1 million for 15 months in Japan.
This is the Proctor bracket, let alone top of the tree. Hence retention beyond first-choice All Blacks is increasingly a losing battle.
Putting those figures in perspective, All Blacks captain Kieran Read is thought to be the only New Zealand player whose salary tops $1m annually, though others will soon reach that threshold.
Read has made intentions clear to move on after the World Cup, with Japan now his favoured destination. After 44 tests, Ryan Crotty is also in demand and expected to do likewise.
Then there is what could be considered the big six – Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Owen Franks. All of whom, at this stage, are delicately poised.
Barrett and Retallick are big ticket items at the very top end of the market. They could, therefore, near name their price in Japan, France or England. Both remain passionate about committing long term to the All Blacks but the complex nature of their deals, with some form of significant time away from New Zealand expected, takes time to agree.
Whitelock is slightly different in the sense he is earmarked as Read's successor and so spending time offshore is not preferable from the All Blacks' perspective, especially with so many other senior players set to move on.
Smith has not long turned 30, and while his form dipped last season depth at halfback is relatively thin. In his low contact position, Smith could feasibly play for another five years and may therefore opt to bid his time to cash in.
Williams, 33, and Franks, 31, are, unsurprisingly, showing signs of wear and tear. Both are probably looking to lock in one final deal to set them up. Whether that is at home, or abroad, remains to be seen.
There are others, too, in the form of Waisake Naholo who is favoured to follow Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Smith offshore later this year after being consistently linked to a mega deal at London Irish as the Premiership club launches a major recruitment drive ahead of expected promotion.
In this climate, NZR always loses players they want to keep.
Dane Coles was the first of this group to swim against tide. The 32-year-old's decision to stick around for a further two years cannot be understated; his value to the Hurricanes and All Blacks stretching well beyond on field contributions.
Just as Coles accepted more responsibility following the 2015 World Cup and the exit of four All Blacks centurions, his presence will again help transition others into the leadership group charged with carrying the team through to 2023.
In a period of limited positive retention news, Coles is a rare trump card.
It comes at a time when the likes of Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua and Lima Sopoaga are increasingly open and, indeed, glowing about their reasoning for leaving much younger than had been the norm.
Each individual is different, motivated by different circumstances, but such views travel fast and effectively encourage others in similar situations to follow suit.
Proctor is the classic case of NZR being left poles apart on offers when it comes to marquee signings that sit outside the English salary cap. His ability to at least double his New Zealand earnings is far from a one-off and, in fact, a red flag of more to come.
The more than £200m (NZD$383m) investment from CVC Capital Partners, in exchange for a 27 per cent share England's Premiership Rugby, is supposed to be directed towards shoring up balance sheets and improving facilities.
The reality is industry insiders expect that to be lip service. England's 13 professional clubs will continue to scrap it out for sought-after New Zealand talent, only now with more money to throw at two marquee prospects each.
The presence of nine New Zealand head coaches in Europe also adds to the constant northern threat.
Stand by, for the coming months promise to bring many more decisions, one way or the other.
For everyone involved in the elite New Zealand game, these are edgy times.