Greene has big skates to fill

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

With Jason Smith bringing his on-ice animosity to the City of Brotherly Lowe, the Oilers developed the need for a tough, menacing, stay-at-home defenceman.

Since they had a pretty good candidate already, one who's spent the last two seasons learning at the foot of the master, they figured it would be a good idea to lock him up.

So restricted free agent Matt Greene is an RFA no more after signing a two-year, $2.3-million contract yesterday.

"It feels great, this has been my dream all along to prove myself in an organization,"said the six-foot-three, 223-pounder.

"I definitely feel I was drafted by the right team. I've been happy since I got here and this makes it that much better.

"I want to stay with the Oilers for a long time."

His new deal averages out to just over $1 million a goal, if you go by Greene's numbers from last year (1-9-10), but the Oilers are paying for much more than his hands.

He's a physical presence who's crammed a lot of experience into his two seasons - between a trip to the Cup final in '06 and increased responsibility necessitated by last year's run of injuries on defence.

"Last year was a tough year, tough to play through, but looking back on it, it gave me a lot of ice time in a lot of different situations that I normally wouldn't have played in," said Greene, one of Edmonton's three second-round draft picks in 2002 (along with Jarret Stoll and Jeff Deslauriers).

"I'm just excited, this is a great commitment from them.

"Hopefully, I see my role increasing - playing more minutes and being more of a factor for this team moving forward."

That's the plan. Greene, meanwhile, owes a lot to his former captain.

"Everything," he said of Smith. "He was my mentor coming up. I lived in his basement for a lot of the time. When I finally did move out I left all of my stuff there just so I would have an excuse to go back there for dinner.

"He's been everything to me in terms of my development and where I am now."

You don't get better role models than Smith, who learned how to be a pro from the likes of Scott Stevens in New Jersey.

"When you get a little bit older you start picking players that you want to be like, who you want to emulate," said Greene, 24.

"He was always one of my favourite players, so to be able to sit in the same lockerroom as him was a great experience.And then to become great friends, living in the same house was unreal for me.

"Every day I woke up I pinched myself at the opportunity I had to learn from him, on and off the ice."

And now he'll be called on to help fill Smith's void.

"I don't think I can ever fill those shoes, the total package he brought - intensity, grittiness and leadership and professionalism.

"But I'm going to make a good effort trying to do what he taught me."


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