The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Mikey Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Let’s say they sell, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at Thomas Novak of the Nashville Predators.
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Thomas Novak
Novak is a centre, who has played 114 career NHL games, all with Nashville. In his career, he has scored 26 goals and 45 assists for 71 points. This season, he has eight goals and 13 assists (21 points) in 36 games. Since the 2021-22 season, Novak’s first, he is eighth on the Predators in expected goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60). That places him just below Filip Forsberg, but ahead of Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh.
Meanwhile, he ranks seventh in that same span for scoring chances for per 60, and 12th in high-danger chances for per 60. As for scoring chance share, in that same span, Novak ranks 13th in scoring chances for percentage (50.62%) and 19th in high-danger chances for percentage (50.62%). Additionally, he has played over 250 minutes on the power play, an average of over two minutes per game. There, he is 10th in goals for per 60.
Novak Scouting Report
Looking at Novak’s games this season, he looks like a Lightning player. He fits the mould of an Eyssimont or Hagel type. He is an energy bug on the ice, always moving his feet. Novak’s not necessarily physically aggressive, but he constantly involves himself in board battles. Once in the offensive zone, Novak is reminiscent of Eyssimont, as he loves controlling the puck and working into the corners. What he does better, however, is he has his head up constantly, looking to make plays as a passer. Eyssimont, on the other hand, is a high volume shooter.
One major fit for Novak as a player is his work in the cycle and transition. Across seven tracked games, Lightning forwards carried the puck into the offensive zone 188 times on 551 attempts. 85 of those were between Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Hagel (45.21%). For Novak, across one tracked game, had three carry-ins and set up teammates with three entry passes, on eight entry attempts he was directly involved in (75% entry success). Then, according to AllThreeZones, Novak generates 1.68 zone entries with scoring chances per 60, and generally ranks incredibly well as a transitional player.
The Concerns For Novak
Other than the actual logistics and salary cap situation, the concern with Novak is becoming repetitive with the forward core. What does that mean? Well, for one, he is a very similar player to Eyssimont, as stated. He has a strong motor, forechecks hard, and is very effective as a transitional player. For the reasons stated earlier, it would be nice to add depth to the lineup when it comes to more efficient or involved transitional players. However, he’s also big with maintaining possession as opposed to actually driving offence.
On top of the fact he isn’t a guy that drives offence, he has an over-inflated shooting percentage. Sound familiar? Tanner Jeannot had a shooting percentage across his first two seasons in Nashville at 19.7%. That dropped to 7.5% over the last two seasons. Novak? He is 16.7% over the last two seasons (across 87 games and counting). He is also producing more than Jeannot was prior to that trade, where Novak has averaged 0.87 and 0.58 points per game over the last two seasons versus Jeannot having 0.47 and 0.51 in the two seasons before being traded.
What It Would (Likely) Take To Acquire Novak
On the low end, this deal could be similar to the Max Domi to Dallas trade. Granted, the situations are different, but Domi averaged 0.82 points per game before being dealt that season, which is greater than that of Novak. He, alongside of Dylan Wells, went to Dallas for Anton Khudobin (a shell of the once strong goalie) and a 2025 second round pick. Wells is essentially an AHL and ECHL goalie to this point in his career, while Khudobin was rapidly declining. Essentially, it was Domi for a second.
The high end, of course, is the infamous Jeannot trade. The Predators dealt Jeannot to Tampa for Cal Foote, a first round pick in 2025, a 2024 second round pick, and third, fourth, and fifth round picks in 2023. Novak comes from the same team as Jeannot, while producing more than Jeannot was at the time, as mentioned. Foote, at that point, was hardly an NHL level defender, and is currently mired in controversy with the 2018 World Juniors scandal. But, the cost is unlikely to be driven that high, so what would a hypothetical deal look like?
Tampa receives: Novak (one year left, at $800,000)
Nashville receives: Alex Barre-Boulet, 2025 second round pick, 2024 fifth round pick
Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On Novak
At this point, Novak is likely on a short list of names the Lightning are looking into. The forward depth has been less than ideal this season, as seen in how they rotate Barre-Boulet, Gage Goncalves, Austin Watson, and several other names, as well as the injuries to Jeannot, Tyler Motte and Conor Sheary not helping. Plus, the times they’ve decided to go with an 11 forward, seven defender set-up, electing two rookie defenders and Phillippe Myers or Haydn Fleury over a forward.
But, it feels redundant to bring in another high-energy player who ultimately does not appear to move the needle offensively at this point, at least not consistently. The Lightning already lack a lot of draft capital, as well as a cupboard of prospects. It feels as though Novak might not be the right guy, but there is reason to believe he would fit into the system and style. Plus, maybe he pulls off a Brandon Hagel and finds a new offensive gear and establishes himself as a bigger name in the sunshine state.
Tracked stats from LWOH (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)
Advanced stats from AllThreeZones
Counting and Per Game stats from Hockey-Reference
Main Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports