Collingwood's Dale Thomas is on the move.

Collingwood's Dale Thomas is on the move. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Collingwood's decorated midfielder Dale Thomas is set to join Carlton as a free agent, with the Blues about to secure him on a four-year deal worth close to $700,000 a season.

Thomas, a 2010 premiership player, 2011 All-Australian and one of the most popular Collingwood players, will exercise his right as a restricted free agent and nominate the Blues as his preferred club.

Dale Thomas has struggled with an ankle injury.

Dale Thomas has struggled with an ankle injury. Photo: Getty Images

The Magpies were uncertain late on Thursday whether Thomas would attend the club's best and fairest on Friday night. Thomas had indicated he would attend the Copeland Trophy on Wednesday, but this could be re-considered, given that the Blues could lodge the contract with the AFL today - and, in effect, Thomas would be attending the function as a Carlton player-in-waiting.

While the Magpies are entitled to match the offer and retain Thomas - or force him to seek a trade - the chances of this happening are close to zero, given that Thomas wants to play for the Blues and reunite with both his old coach Mick Malthouse and former chief executive and good friend Greg Swann. The Pies are reconciled to losing him and are likely to receive pick No.11 in the national draft as compensation for Thomas, who has been afflicted with ankle injuries over the past two seasons.

Carlton is understood to be satisfied with specialists' medical reports on Thomas' ankle and are prepared to give him a four-year deal, around the $700,000 mark - similar to the deal that saw Brendon Goddard leave St Kilda for Essendon 12 months ago. Goddard earned St Kilda a first round pick - No. 13 - as compensation.

Dale Thomas and then coach Mick Malthouse in 2011.

Dale Thomas and then coach Mick Malthouse in 2011. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Thomas' decision, however, is not simply about getting the best deal, since Collingwood also had signalled that it might hand him a longer-term deal. If the Pies were willing to match the four year deal - which they won't - then Thomas would rank in the top three for player payments at Collingwood, behind only Travis Cloke and possibly Scott Pendlebury.

The exit of forward Eddie Betts opens up significant room in Carlton's salary cap and assists the Blues in finding room to recruit Thomas, who, like Betts, will be on a four-year deal and is 26. The exit of Thomas and Shaw will open up room in Collingwood's salary cap, which has been extremely tight since the 2010 premiership and 2011 grand final loss. The Magpies are expected to sign Sydney forward Jesse White, subject to striking a deal with the Swans, who need to shed players to accommodate Lance Franklin's massive nine-year contract. They have also had an interest in Greater Western Sydney's Taylor Adams, who has been courted by several Victorian clubs.