Peterhead boss Jim McInally says it is difficult to make new signings within the north-east market.
The Blue Toon gaffer is still on the look-out for new recruits as he prepares for the start of the new season in October.
Some have questioned why the Buchan outfit are not able to add more local players to their ranks.
However, McInally says it is tough to get those players when many are tied to long-term contracts in the Highland League, which Peterhead can’t afford to buy out.
McInally has also tried to swoop for young players released by Aberdeen, but just one, 18-year-old midfielder Max Barry, has taken up the option of trying to win a deal at Balmoor during pre-season.
Scotland’s longest-serving manager said: “It’s difficult to get the players locally because we’re at a stage where we need to be trying to get players that are out of contract.
“And in the Highland League it’s very rare that clubs let players go out of contract.
“So anybody that you do fancy, you have to buy them, and the prices that are being asked for are over the top of what we could afford, so it’s tough.
“I think Cove Rangers would agree with me because I think when they came into the SPFL they said they would try to do it with local players, but it can be hard to get the players you need.
“I’ve spoken about the Highland League, but even with the young players that were released by Aberdeen – we were in touch with them right away and offered them the chance to come and train with us and we’ve not heard from most of them again.
“There is one, Max Barry, who is going to come and play in some friendlies and we’ll have a look at him.
“But other than that it’s difficult. I’ve said it before, but I’ve always thought a lot of Scott Barbour at Fraserburgh and how well he would do in the SPFL.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about how well he would do, but there’s no way in the world we could afford to take him to Peterhead and there’s every chance he might not even want to come to Peterhead anyway.”
As well as assessing Barry, the other player from the north of Scotland McInally will run the rule over in pre-season is Black Isle-based winger Gregor MacDonald.
McInally added: “Gregor is one of very few who played in the Highland League last season (on loan at Keith) and was available and that was because he was only on-loan and was freed by Ross County.
“We’re going to have a look at him and I’m sure there are a few Highland League teams that are desperate to sign him.
“We try our best and you have to hope you get a break with one or two things, but it’s difficult if players are tied to contracts.
“And I’m not criticising Highland League clubs for having players signed up because it’s good business.
“But for us looking into the Highland League market it’s just about the hardest market for us operate in – it’s not a criticism, it’s just the way it is.
“I’m sure Highland League players are happy to have that bit of insurance of a longer deal as well.”