The foundations have been laid this season for progress to be made next season Jim Jefferies is on the look out for a like-for-like replacement for Kevin Kyle after admitting the striker's absence has hit Hearts' bid for third in the SPL. Kyle has been out since 11 January after problems diagnosing his injury and has undergone hip surgery after an earlier double hernia operation. Jefferies admitted the striker's absence has been a blow which has contributed to Hearts' advantage in third place being cut from 15 points to eight with six games left to be played, with Dundee United in hot pursuit having won seven of their last eight SPL games. Jefferies may look to recruit a targetman similar to Kyle in the summer to enhance options at Tynecastle. Speaking ahead of Saturday's match at Inverness, Jefferies said: "If we had Kevin Kyle fit, along with everybody else, I think we would have had it all tied up weeks ago. He's been a big miss and we don't have another player like that. We might have to look at our options in the summer just in case he doesn't play every game next year."It is expected that Kyle will miss the start of next season and Hearts' early Europa League fixtures, if they qualify.Jefferies added: "We're going to struggle to get him for the start of the season." Jefferies wants to see exactly where Hearts finish in the SPL before finalising plans for next season. He said: "Nothing will be discussed with any player under contract or wanting a new contract or in plans until we get third place tied up. We've had tentative discussions with the owners but nothing will be decided or discussed until we get third place tied up."Hearts will be expected to progress from the level achieved this term, which saw them being promoted as genuine title contenders at one stage challenging Celtic and Rangers earlier in the campaign.And he is confident he can retain players and enhance his squad to match expectations. He went on: "Hopefully the ones we want to keep we can keep and if we want to try and improve the squad we'll try and do that. I'm not bothered whether I get cash or not. Cash would be nice, but if it's not there it doesn't stop us bringing in players. There are a lot of players out of contract and this club has great stature about it. There's a lot of people that would like to play at this club."Achieving third place and a qualifying place in the Europa League would help any side's recruitment drive. United manager Peter Houston has continually reiterated Hearts will not be caught in third place and Jefferies believes it would be a failure not to finish best of the rest behind the Old Firm. He said: "Of course it would be, yes. We set out to be third right at the start of the season. We've only won one of the last six, but we've only lost two - I'd much rather be in our position. They know they have to keep winning so if we do slip up they can take advantage. What we've got to do is forget about them, go into the next game and try to win it. We've just got to concentrate on ourselves - it's in our own hands."