SEVEN first-team players have been told they can leave Caley Thistle as manager Terry Butcher trims his squad in preparation for Division One football next season.
Along with the departing duo of Michael Fraser and Ian Black, who had already signed pre-contract agreements with Motherwell and Hearts respectively, Andy McNulty, Thierry Gathuessi, Pavels Mihadjuks, Richie Byrne, Iain Vigurs, Zander Sutherland and Garry Wood are also heading for the exit door at Inverness.
Butcher, however, will be offering new contracts to Lionel Djebi-Zadi, David Proctor, Roy McBain, Brian Kerr, Richie Foran, Eric Odhiambo and Filipe Morais in the hope of keeping the nucleus of his first-team pool together to aid Caley Thistle's assault on the Division One title.
"There was a very big squad at the club, too big for the Scottish Football League," stated Butcher. "If all the players that we want to keep at the club sign new deals then that will be us up to 18 of a squad, so it would be a case of then filling one or two holes.
"However, I understand that guys like Richie Foran, Brian Kerr and Filipe Morais are all players who have proved themselves more than capable of playing in the SPL.
"I have spoken to these players and told them that while I would like them to stay with the club and help us get back up, I would fully understand if they accepted an offer from a club in a higher division than ourselves.
"That is their choice and I would fully respect that because we are not in a position now to offer them SPL football. However, that could all change again next year."
Caley Thistle supporters may raise a few eyebrows at players such as Mihadjuks and Vigurs not being offered new deals, but the financial impact of Caley Thistle's demotion has meant some difficult decisions have had to be made.
Butcher spent Sunday and yesterday phoning the players to put forward his plans for next season, although he knows he will be working with a reduced budget.
There is scope, however, for Butcher to bring on board new faces as he looks to build a squad with plenty of experience in readiness for the competitive confines of Division One.
"I have started the process of having a look at one or two players that I would like to bring to the club," he said.
"I've actually been looking at the shape of the team for next season and there's little doubt that we'll have spaces to fill.
"It's hard to say just now how many will be in the first-team squad next season, but ideally I would like two players for every position.
"However, we've got guys like Ross Tokely and David Proctor, if he signs, who can play more than one position, so at least there is some versatility within the squad.
"We've got to have players in the squad who are prepared to roll their sleeves up because playing in Division One is completely different to the SPL.
"That's why I would like to bring in a couple of experienced players because it's going to be a battle and we need to face it head on."
The first shoots of recovery following the confirmation of Caley Thistle's relegation were seen yesterday with the club receiving several enquiries regarding season tickets for the forthcoming Division One campaign.
It is a sign that even although Inverness dropped out of the SPL after a five-year stint, the supporters are keen to play their part in helping the club get back into Scotland's top division.
"It's very encouraging to hear that fans are phoning up and asking about season tickets only two days after we were relegated," said Butcher.
"They were excellent on Saturday and must have been pleased at the way it was going for 38 minutes before Ross Tokely's red card changes the course of the game.
"Since I came to the club it's been great and now that we've started something we want to continue it. There's no doubt that we'll be doing everything possible to give the fans the same excitement they had over the last four months that I've been here and hopefully they can help us bounce back straight away."
Going and staying
Being offered new contracts Lionel Djebi-Zadi, David Proctor, Roy McBain, Brian Kerr, Richie Foran, Eric Odhiambo and Filipe Morais.
Not being offered new contracts Andy McNulty, Thierry Gathuessi, Richie Byrne, Pavels Mihadjuks, Zander Sutherland, Iain Vigurs and Garry Wood.
Players already leaving under freedom of contract Michael Fraser and Ian Black.