(By the way, it's pronounced hee-kuh, not high-kuh.)
PHILADELPHIA -- Tomas Hyka was never cut by the Philadelphia Flyers. After a bit of a mix-up and a "hey bro, come back!" call from Paul Holmgren while he was on his way to Gatineau, Quebec to join his junior club, he's back with the Flyers in camp, and was on the ice for tonight's preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He scored a goal, and it was awesome. He's been damn impressive over the last two weeks, and as a young kid without a contract, it's kind of a no brainer that the Flyers should grab his rights before somebody else does.
In fact, before inviting him to camp, the Flyers were actually interested in drafting Hyka. Anthony SanFilippo has the full story over on his blog, and it really is a hilariously fascinating read. Highly recommended. In a nutshell, the Flyers took a chance by letting him go in the late rounds of this years draft, hoping he would fall and be available this summer. Here's a snippet of Ant's story:
Hyka has done nothing but impress the Flyers with his skating ability and his skill, but has really been a surprise with his puck possession skills for such a small player.
The Flyers wanted to give him a look in a game situation before deciding if they want to offer him an entry level contract, which, according to a team source, is something the Flyers are seriously considering.
After his play in Wednesday's preseason game (his goal celebration alone was enough to want to keep him around a little longer), more attention is being paid to Hyka than ever before. Unfortunately, the fact that he wasn't drafted might mean that the Flyers can't sign him to a contract right now. Nor can any other NHL team. We'll explain below.
Hyka played last season in the Czech Extraliga, and at the 2011 NHL Draft in June, he was passed on by every single NHL club including the Flyers. So he went undrafted, and a few days after the NHL Draft, he was selected by Gatineau in the CHL Import Draft.
But by letting him go through the draft, the Flyers appear to have made a vital mistake. He's not a free agent right now, and obviously, to sign a player to a contract when you don't hold the rights to that player, he has to be a free agent. Rules governing "Draft Related Unrestricted Free Agents" are outlined in Section 10.1 (d) of the CBA:
Any Player not eligible for claim in any future Entry Draft pursuant to this Agreement and not on a Club's Reserve List shall be an Unrestricted Free Agent.
That does not apply to Hyka, as he is eligible for claim in the Entry Draft next year. This is outlined in Section 8.4 of the CBA, and we're not going to quote that one. Trust us on it. Or look it up yourself. Moving on...
Further, any Player eligible for claim in the Entry Draft, but who was unclaimed, shall be an Unrestricted Free Agent subject to the provisions of Section 8.9(b).
Alright, so Hyka is a UFA depending on what's said in Section 8.9. Let's look there now.
Section 8.9 of the CBA outlines "Eligibility for Play in the League," and according to it, it doesn't look like Hyka is eligible. We'll take even smaller baby steps here because this shit is complicated.
8.9 Eligibility for Play in the League. No Player shall be eligible for play in the League unless he:
And now, the provisions that make a player eligible. Let's run through them one at a time.
(a) had been claimed in the last Entry Draft, or was ineligible for claim under Section 8.4;
Hyka was not claimed in the draft, nor was he ineligible for claim. 30 teams passed on him in the draft. That part doesn't apply to him. Let's keep going...
or (b) had been eligible for claim in the last Entry Draft, but was unclaimed, and:
These next few parts are the ones that apply here, since Hyka was eligible and went unclaimed...
(i) had played hockey in North America the prior season and was age 20 or older at the time of the last Entry Draft, and signed an [Standard Player Contract] which was signed and registered with the League between the conclusion of the Entry Draft and commencement of the next NHL Season
Hyka didn't play in North America last season. Doesn't apply. Next...
(ii) had played hockey in North America the prior season and was under age 20 at the time of the last Entry Draft, and signed an SPC which was signed and registered with the League between theconclusion of the Entry Draft and commencement of the Major Juniors season (except that if such Player had signed an NHL tryout form, which was signed and registered with the League during the aforesaid time period, then the deadline for signing andregistering with the League an SPC with such try-out Club shall bethe commencement of the NHL Season).
Same thing. Didn't play in North America. So far, Hyka is ineligible to play in the NHL. Next...
(iii) had played hockey outside of North America in the prior season
Alright, here we go...
and was age 22 or older at the time of the last Entry Draft and signed an SPC which was signed and registered with the League between the conclusion of the Entry Draft and the commencement of the next NHL Season.
Hyka wasn't age 22 or older at the Draft in June. He was 18. And he's still 18.
That's the end of the section, minus a part where it defines "the prior season" as "a full season prior to the last Entry Draft." So, the entirety of last season.
Hyka played in Europe -- outside of North America -- for all of last year, and according to this part of the CBA, he's ineligible to play in the NHL this season. If he was drafted, this would obviously be a different story. But because he played in Europe last year, was passed over in the draft and isn't 22 years old, it doesn't appear to us as though an NHL team can sign him to a contract. We can't find any other section in the CBA that would counter this notion.
Until somebody can dig up that section -- I've searched for about an hour tonight and can't find it, and several of our commenters have done digging as well on this tonight -- we're going with the assumption that Hyka simply goes back into the draft next year, where the Flyers or any other team can take him.
For now, he's not Flyers property and he's not an unrestricted free agent, so the Flyers can't make him their property. And that sucks, because that was one hell of a goal celebration.
Note: This story has been edited since its original publication to include further clarification.
Tons of credit to our CBA Expert DragonGirl0583 for being a whiz on this stuff and leading the charge in trying to figure this out tonight. You rock.