Chris Vande Velde had better prepare for some competition.
The Edmonton Oilers have signed college free agent center Tanner House to a two-year contract. This is the second college free agent the Oilers have signed in the last couple of weeks, having already inked Taylor Fedun to a new deal earlier in the month. This, in and of itself, is a good thing. The Oilers have targeted a couple of players in the college ranks, and have convinced them to sign in Edmonton. Given the number who have signed here post-lockout (Bryan Lerg and that's it, if I remember correctly), this is a positive development indeed.
On the business side of things, it will be difficult to evaluate this contract until we get some more details. We don't even really know which two years House is signed for. Is it this one and next (like Casey Wellman's deal with the Wild last season), or rather for next year and the year after (like Fedun's). In that House will be twenty-five in April, the two-year deal would seem to imply that it's for next year and the year after since, at twenty-four, an entry-level contract is for just one season. Given that this deal is for two years, it's likely that the deal isn't an ELC at all (this is the provision for players who sign at twenty-five or older), and that it begins in 2011-12. Of course, that complicates matters further. Because this (probably) isn't an ELC, we don't have much to go on as far as expectations for the contract itself (it could be a one-way deal, for example).
In the broader picture, this signing is bad news for some of the other prospects who require contracts this year, specifically Cameron Abney and House's teammate at Maine, Robby Dee. With every player brought in from outside the organization, these two become less and less likely to receive a contract. To be perfectly frank, I'm happy about that. If the organization can go out and get better players via free agency, that's a whole lot better than marrying yourself to guys just because you drafted them. After the jump, I'll look briefly at, you know, the actual player.
Tanner House fits some of the things that the Oilers are looking for. He's not huge, but at 6'1'' and 195 lbs., he's definitely big enough to play in the NHL and fits in with the Oilers mantra of getting bigger. He's also a smart cookie having won several academic awards in his time in college, which seems to be something that the Oilers are looking for in their players. To top it off, House has been the captain of his club for the last two seasons, which gives him the ever-important "leadership" on his CV (not to be confused with CVV whose lunch he's going to try to eat). On top of that, he fills a need.
House was named the top defensive forward in Hockey East and the good Lord knows that the Oilers could sure use some players who know where to be in the defensive end, particularly at center. He's scored at about a point per game in his last two seasons at Maine, but that's basically the minimum required for a guy his age looking to make the jump to the NHL - he's not going to be an offensive threat at the pro level. In ten of the gamesheets, Maine helpfully noted the total faceoffs won and lost for each player (in the other sheets, the data is there, but you'd have to go through the play-by-play, and that feels like too much work right now), and while you won't get a great read on ability in just ten games, House took more draws than any of his teammates and won 59.6% of those 198 faceoffs, so it would seem that he has some ability there. I don't know that he'll ever be a good player in the NHL, but there's some chance that as of today Tanner House is the second best healthy center in the organization. I know that sounds crazy, but keep in mind that House is actually older than Ryan O`Marra and Chris Vande Velde. I'll be interested to see whether or not House gets some NHL action in the next few weeks.