While a portion of trade and free agency deals are often finalised in the dying seconds of the exchange window's deadline day, the wheels can often be in motion before the AFL home and away season is even underway.

Last year's trade window saw 36 players find a new club ahead of the 2023 season, some deals being brokered within hours and others landing after months in the making.

Between contracted players and free agents, AFL clubs and their list managers will often be putting the wheels in motion to scout targets right from their first appearance of the season, or could very well enter the new year with priority signings in mind.

Lion-turned-Magpie Daniel McStay was among the movers at the end of last season, with his switch to Collingwood coming months after his mind was already made up.

"Daniel McStay was a free agent of mine who I got across to Collingwood. But that was all done in July," CSM agent Nick Gieschen revealed to Zero Hanger in the off-season.

"It was still six months in the making, though. There was Brisbane's offer. Then came Collingwood's meeting. It then went back to Brisbane to think about whether to keep him. It eventually got to a stage where Daniel decided, ‘nup, I want to come home'."

With the new season just over a month away, each club is sure to have their list of targets slowly coming together as they plan to scout out-of-contract names across the course of the year.

With this list, we name the one off-contract player your club should be keeping a close eye on in 2023.


St Kilda

Ben McKay

One of the biggest fish in the free agency pool, with McKay's signature sure to be a major coup for any club that manages to lure the key defender out of Arden Street.

With Ross Lyon more than likely looking to make a splash in his first trade period back in the AFL, alongside new list manager Stephen Silvagni, the Saints could press hard for McKay's services.

The Roos defender is one of the competition's best-emerging backmen and fits the bills as far as St Kilda's list needs.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 08: Ben McKay of the Kangaroos runs with the ball during the round eight AFL match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Collingwood Magpies at Marvel Stadium on May 08, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Despite their recruitment of Zaine Cordy through free agency last year, the Saints are still lacking in their back third and will be wanting to add more names to their list down back.

As far as names on offer, none will come more enticing than McKay in 2023.