Craig Halkett became the latest Heart of Midlothian star to sign a contract extension, penning a deal until the summer of 2026.

The centre-back joins Liam Boyce and Alan Forrest in committing their futures to the club. It is hoped more will follow with offers tabled and talks taking place with Craig Gordon, Beni Baningime and, of course, Lawrence Shankland.

Halkett's wayward night against Dundee on Tuesday, namely the second half, may have swayed some of the more reactionary elements of the Hearts support into questioning the extension. But, let's make no mistake, the deal is a no-brainer.

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Let's go back to this time last year. It was the beginning of the realisation that the centre-back is and would be a huge miss in the centre of the Hearts defence following his season-ending injury against Dundee United at Tannadice. It is not hyperbole to suggest the club would have secured third place if it wasn't for Halkett's injury. In his absence, the team struggled to deal with crosses into the box and any aerial bombardment or physical opponent.

The 28-year-old's importance to the team was seen last season through his absence and the season prior through his presence. He was in the 96th percentile for aerial win success rate (100 is the best) in the 2021/22 campaign. The centre of the back three, flanked by Stephen Kingsley and John Souttar, was perfect for him and saw him excel. His attributes, from his physicality to his aggression, willingness to block shots, be in the right position to cut out crosses, are ideal for Scottish football.

“Halks is a very experienced player and having been here for four years he gets Hearts, knows the demands of the club and what it takes to be successful here," sporting director Joe Savage noted.

He is the type of character, on and off the field, Hearts should have in their squad. In fact, all Scottish Premiership teams should have. Not only does he provide continuity to the squad, his experience and know-how of Scottish football is invaluable. If Hearts were to allow him to leave the vast majority of teams outwith the Old Firm would be desperate to sign him. If he were to be allowed to leave in the summer it would be a case of having to replace all those attributes.

Fans may point to Frankie Kent's signing and his impact on the team. It has been excellent and he was the perfect recruit to provide Hearts with the defensive qualities that were sorely missed in the second half of last season. But the team's experience last campaign demonstrates the need for options.

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Steven Naismith wants to get away from a churn of players and any extensive surgery to his squad each summer. As things stand, Hearts' options in the centre of defence for next season are Kent, Halkett, Kingsley, Rowles and the returning Lewis Neilson. It allows focus to move elsewhere in terms of reinforcements and improvements.

As for Halkett on a personal level. Tuesday night was just his fifth start since missing a large chunk of action. Last season was the first in six years where he didn't play at least 30 games. He requires time, patience and minutes to get back to a level that prompted a Scotland call-up. As frustrating as it is for supporters, the frustration is tenfold for players who want to get back to where they were pre-injury immediately. They have the understanding, however, that it is not a case of clicking the fingers. There are going to be ups and downs, moments where they have to endure or be taken out of the team. But it is part of a road to full fitness which is far from linear.

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Naismith said: "His form prior to his injuries was excellent, which was proven with a Scotland call-up, and I’m confident that Halks will be able to reach those levels again as he works back to full fitness. From there, he’ll get better and better as we continue a busy run of games.”

Tuesday night was the first real blip in his integration back into the team, aside from his return in the second half of the loss to Aberdeen. He may not have quite reached the dominance in the air he had in the 2021/22 campaign but there are positive signs as we can see from his radar below (this season in blue, 2021/22 in red).

Hearts Standard:

He is still a nightmare for players to get past as was seen with a crunching challenge on Amadou Bakayoko on Tuesday, he is brilliant at closing down and blocking shots, while he takes a no-nonsense approach to clearing his lines. At times it appears as if he has a gravitational pull over the ball when it comes into the box.

Getting Halkett under contract until 2026 is a smart move and should be welcomed.