Dons boss Derek McInnes admits it will be tough to fill the void left by Kenny McLean’s exit but today vowed to bring in a strong summer replacement.
Scotland cap McLean has returned to parent club Norwich City having signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Championship Canaries in January.
McLean, 26, played a pivotal role in the Reds securing a fourth successive runners-up finish in the Premiership.
Aberdeen have enquired about Peterborough midfielder Chris Forrester, 25, who has been placed on the transfer list by the League One club.
Forrester has European experience with St Patrick’s Athletic and, although still uncapped, has been selected for Republic of Ireland squads.
McInnes admits it is difficult to replace “like for like” with an international player like McLean on a limited budget.
However, he is ready to maximise the cash available to strengthen his squad for the upcoming season.
On replacing McLean, he said: “It’s difficult. When players become internationals they are difficult to replace like for like.
“You have to try to adjust and make signings you think can help bridge the gap to in time become like the players who left.
“We have always tried to be forward planning and we are always working two windows ahead of ourselves. And looking at the out-of-contract list, because that is the job.
“Our first port of call is the out-of-contract list but if there’s not an out-of-contract player we can get to replace Kenny, we go again.
“We will try to do it as best we can by using what we have got which isn’t fortunes.
“However, we will rinse everything we have got to bring in quality.”
Forrester was part of the St Patrick’s Athletic side who won the League of Ireland Premier Division in 2013 and the national cup the following year.
He played for three seasons in the Europa League pre-qualifiers, the level the Dons will enter in July.
As well as Forrester the Dons have also enquired about his Peterborough team-mate, Jack Baldwin.
Versatile Baldwin, 24, can play centre-back, right-back and midfield.
Peterborough director of football Barry Fry this week confirmed the Reds had made an approach for the duo.
Fry said: “Aberdeen want Jack and Chris, but I’m not sure they will be able to afford them.”
Following the season-closing 1-0 win at Celtic, McLean and another five loanees went back to their parent clubs. Aberdeen also released Icelandic international centre-back Kari Arnason, striker Nicky Maynard and full-back Daniel Harvie.
McInnes said: “The challenge for me is always to replace good players.
“Kenny is one who was up there as a top performer for us for the whole season.
“Some people don’t always see that, but I saw it.
“Kenny got a wee bit more recognition in the last few months but his influence in the team had always been there for me.
“He is a brilliant young player who is only going to get better.
“Kenny is honest, hard working and he gives it everything.
“Sometimes players are only fully appreciated when they leave.
“However I certainly appreciated Kenny while he was here.
“We could all sit here and write the key players for each Premiership team, and certainly McLean and Graeme Shinnie are two that spring to mind straight away for us.”
McInnes has already secured Hamilton midfielder Lewis Ferguson on a pre-contract agreement.
Hamilton reportedly want £500,000 in compensation for the 18-year-old.
Accies have reportedly rejected an opening Reds’ offer of £100,000.
The Dons are confident a compensation package can be agreed between the clubs.
Aberdeen are also tracking Ross County right-back Jason Naismith.
However, the recently-relegated Staggies have warned any club who wants Naismith will have to pay a fee for him.
Naismith still has two years left on his contract with the Dingwall club.