SUN Hockey Pool

School's out for Greene

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

No more pencils, no more books and no more teachers' dirty looks for Matt Greene.

A week after registering for his senior season at the University of North Dakota in anticipation of playing one last year with the Fighting Sioux, Greene suddenly became a pro yesterday when he agreed to a two-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers wanted Greene, their second-round pick from 2002, to leave school behind. Now they expect the rugged blueliner to fight for a spot with the big club despite stepping right out of the college ranks.

"That was the main selling point for me," said Greene.

"They've put it in my hands and told me that if I come to camp in good shape I'll have a good shot at making it.

"It was tough because I wanted to go to North Dakota and win a national championship, but at the same time my dream is to play in the NHL. Getting that opportunity was very hard to turn down. I'm definitely sad to leave school, but I'm extremely happy about getting this new challenge."

While terms of Greene's deal were not disclosed, his agent, Wade Arnott, said he will earn close to the maximum in base salary ($630,000 US) and signing bonus ($500,000 US) - both of which were affected by the new CBA's 24% rollback.

SERIOUS

"We were pretty serious about getting him to come out of school a year early, especially after we traded two young defencemen in Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka," said Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson.

"You never know how a player is going to do until he gets here and plays against the pros, but we think he is close to being ready to playing in the NHL."

School was still foremost in Greene's mind as he worked a hockey camp last week in Minnesota.

"It wasn't a ploy," said Arnott. "This wasn't how things normally go for a player like Matt - a third-year player in college who is going to come out usually gets signed back in the spring. But with the CBA not finished back then, he had to prepare to go back to school. We had a meeting of the minds and things developed. Both the Oilers and Matt felt it was time to move on."

RUGGED REP

The six-foot-three, 223-pounder has built a rugged reputation in the NCAA, amassing 347 penalty minutes in 122 games for UND. Last season, Greene led the Sioux to the NCAA Frozen Four tournament final. The 22-year-old from Grand Ledge, Michigan, improved his overall game to finish with 10 points and a plus-11 in 43 games.

Ales Hemsky also accepted his qualifying offer yesterday, which gets him signed for this season and gives him Group II free-agent status following the 2005-06 campaign.

Hemsky earned $1.13 million with the Oilers in 2003-04 and will take home $901,740 this year.

The 22-year-old drew rave reviews last season for his play at the world championship and at home in the Czech Republic, scoring 31 points in 47 games for Pardubice and then being named playoff MVP as his club won the league title.

"We believe he can be an important part of our team," said Howson, who tried to get a two-year deal done with Hemsky but couldn't find common ground.

"He'll get another year of experience and we'll see where we're at. He'll have arbitration rights, and we'll take another run at him next off-season."

Hemsky's deal came on the final day for players to accept qualifying offers, leaving the Oilers to still negotiate with restricted free agents Ryan Smyth and Raffi Torres.

Howson is working on a two-year deal for Torres while talks regarding Smyth range from one-year to multi-year offers.


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