1. Tommy Novak: 2024 UFA, $800,000 Current Cap Hit
Novak was signed to a one-year minimal deal in February of 2023, and since then he has outplayed that contract very decisively. He has proven he's capable of second line minutes at center, and has had to step up his game with Cody Glass going through his own troubles and being healthy scratched.
It would be mind-boggling and baffling if the Predators were to not retain Novak, but there is always the chance that Trotz throws a monkey wrench into everything and trades Novak at the trade deadline.
I just don't see it making logical sense to deal off any of your young core right now, which is why Novak is my top priority among 2024 free agents. With him being a UFA and having a lot of upside as a true center with high scoring potential, teams will be very interested if Novak was available on the open free agent market.
That's why I only see one of two things being a possibility with Novak; he's re-signed to a multi-year deal at some point before the season ends or he's traded at the deadline because Trotz has other plans that might not be clear right now.
I'm going with option 1 of re-signing Novak. He's entering the prime of his hockey career at age 26 and it's very likely we haven't even seen the best of him yet. You invest in a player like Novak. He's homegrown, he plays the game the right way and has enormous boom potential in the next five years.
As you can see, some notable free agents I left off this top-5 list are Fabbro, Tyson Barrie, Keifer Sherwood, Michael McCarron and Kevin Lankinen. Just to name a few. All quality players, but none of them move the needle enough for me to have them higher priority than the top five mentioned above.