Aaaaaaaaand breathe. After what may have felt like a long January for supporters, Heart of Midlothian have made it to the end of the transfer window having retained the services of their No.9, while making savvy additions elsewhere.

It’s hard to downplay just how important keeping a hold of Lawrence Shankland was for Hearts. We’ve previously examined the myriad ways in which the striker is a once-in-a-generation talent in Gorgie and the various records that are falling by the wayside as the Scotland internationalist keeps banging them in on a weekly basis.

Looking around the Premiership, he is the Most Valuable Player to one team. Losing him mid-season would have been a significant blow both on the pitch and psychologically. He has contributed roughly half of the team's goals with Kenneth Vargas as the second-top scorer with just four to his name. Perhaps more than that is his presence. No one in the maroon and white has had an aura like his since Rudi Skacel. Genuine match-winning, game-changing qualities weekly no matter his performance level. The 10-point lead over fourth-placed Kilmarnock would not look as healthy for Steven Naismith's men without their talismanic captain.

READ MORE: Lawrence Shankland: Examining why the Hearts ace is the best finisher in Scotland

Despite the links and the speculation, the whispers of done deals and rumours popping up all along the grapevine, Hearts supporters’ greatest fears were never in danger of being realised. The bids and inquiries that many expected going into the window didn't materialise. All the time and energy that fans had spent fretting over the striker’s future was in vain – as each and everyone will have been delighted to discover.

The transfer speculation surrounding the centre-forward will inevitably arise once again in the summer, but that’s a problem for another day. In the here and now, Hearts simply didn't want to lose their prize asset with the potential European football reward waiting for them at the end of the season.

Now, retaining Shankland was always going to be the priority this month – and the centre-forward signing a contract extension would be the icing on the cake with that situation set to rumble on. But there was much more to the January transfer window for Hearts.

Naismith and the club's recruitment team had other important tasks to attend to. Finding a new right-back was the signing priority with Nathaniel Atkinson on Asian Cup duty and Odel Offiah returning to parent club Brighton & Hove Albion. There was no waiting around, Hearts moved quickly to bring in Dexter Lembikisa early on in the window allowing him to get into the changing room and settle before the competitive action got underway. He has shown in his first three outings that he is likely to have a positive impact between now and the end of the season.

Scott Fraser’s loan move from Charlton took a little longer than expected, but the playmaker looks to be a savvy addition after Alex Lowry’s loan stint in Gorgie was cut short. He also happens to be someone who has been on Naismith's radar for quite some time.

READ MORE: Why a Hearts pre-contract move for Yan Dhanda makes sense for everyone

Both Lembikisa and Fraser are like-for-like signings who were brought in to plug the gaps filled by departing players. This speaks to the success of the long-term planning that was made by Hearts in the summer – the coaching staff are clearly happy with the overall composition of the squad available to them, and so only a light touch was required in the January window. Keeping things ticking over and future-proofing was the aim of the game, and that’s precisely what has transpired in EH11 over the past four weeks with a deal in place to bring Yan Dhanda to the club in the summer.

It is important to steer away from having to do major surgery on the squad in January. That often has the stench of panic, desperation, lacking strategy and sometimes all three. Players who departed, namely Andy Halliday and Michael McGovern, were on the fringes of the squad, while loan inquiries for Toby Sibbick were understandably given short shrift.

A few more signings would have excited fans but an understated, quiet winter window was what was truly required and how well-functioning clubs tend to operate. Any sort of sustained concrete interest in Shankland could have led to a very difficult few weeks that may have led to the dynamic changing for the remainder of the season.

Instead, it was a month where little happened, where there were no serious bids to mull over, dramatic moves or difficult decisions to make. And that's exactly what Hearts wanted.