Des Hasler's long-term tenure at Canterbury remains unclear and the head coach is not the only one under the early-season microscope with five-eighth Josh Reynolds' future at the Bulldogs also uncertain after setting a lofty asking price of upwards of $800,000 a year.
Reynolds, 27, is one of three off-contract members of the Bulldogs' spine. Hooker Michael Lichaa and fullback Will Hopoate have also begun talks with the club about new deals but it is the future of local junior Reynolds that will gain most attention.
The former State of Origin playmaker is understood to be seeking more than $800,000 a season for 2018 and beyond and will be desperate to demonstrate his value in coming rounds beginning against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
Canterbury have been linked with one of the Wests Tigers' high-profile, off-contract quartet, five-eighth Mitchell Moses, and could make a play to reunite Kieran Foran and Hasler next year but may have to offload players to be a genuine mover in the open market.
Reynolds is the only local junior in Canterbury's top squad but whether he can command a marquee playmaker's salary, particularly with halfback Moses Mbye already signed until 2020 on a reported $750,000 a season, is yet to be determined.
The No.6 endured a frustrating round-one performance in the wet against Melbourne at Belmore Sportsground last Friday and will be looking to bounce back strongly against the Roosters.
"Obviously he was a bit disappointed, he came up with some errors at a crucial time," Hasler said of Reynolds' display against the Storm.
"But the conditions being that way, I'm sure he'll be able to make amends this week."
The only member of the Bulldogs' much-maligned spine who is under contract beyond this season is Mbye, who Hasler expects to overcome a knee problem and take the field on Thursday night. Lichaa, signed in 2014 from Cronulla as Michael Ennis' long-term replacement but who has been criticised for his ball delivery from dummy half, is no certainty to remain at Belmore beyond this year while Hopoate's future is also up for negotiation.
Hasler's own negotiations for a contract extension – "It's progressing ... we're having discussions", he said on Wednesday – continue to leave a spectre of uncertainty around the club.
The coach, however, is confident that the Bulldogs can bounce back from defeat to the Storm and showcase a more attacking style developed in the off-season, which was stifled by weather conditions last Friday night.
"Sometimes I think you've got to put things in context. It was difficult to play an open type of footy last week," Hasler said.
"We're comfortable with where we are."
Canterbury front-rower Aiden Tolman said Hasler had been measured in his assessment of the Storm game but acknowledged they would have to lift against the Roosters, who flew out of the gates to lead 28-0 at half-time against Gold Coast Titans in round one.
"I thought our start was pretty poor on the weekend," Tolman said. "Melbourne put on 12 points really early for us and the Roosters put on 28 or whatever it was in the first half. We need to make sure that's fixed up and if we do that and get ourselves into the game early I'm sure it will be a different result.
"Des is known for his outbursts but he was actually pretty calm and reserved after the game. It was round one – we can't be getting too far ahead of ourselves just yet – but we obviously need to turn it around pretty quickly."