3/7: The Duck have confirmed the signing and the terms of the deal for Benoit, noting that the first-year pro leads the Gulls and is third among all AHL rookie defensemen in plus/minus, while also leading San Diego rookie defenders in goals, shots, and games played. The strong performance from the under-the-radar junior signing has clearly impressed the Anaheim brass this season.
3/4: The Anaheim Ducks have made an unexpected splash into the free agent market, signing a player off their AHL squad. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that the Ducks have signed undrafted QMJHL product Simon Benoit to a three-year entry-level contract. CapFriendly adds that the contract begins next season and carries an AAV of $925K, offset by a $278K signing bonus and $348K in potential performance bonuses over the term of the deal. Benoit has played all season on an AHL contract with the San Diego Gulls.
Benoit, 20, has made the most of his first pro season after he failed to draw NHL interest this past summer. The 6’3″, 192-lb. possession defenseman has established himself as a capable two-way defender in the AHL and looks to have NHL upside. A former standout with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, Benoit has moved to the pro level seamlessly, recording 12 points and a team-best +17 rating thus far through 50 games with the Gulls.
With San Diego head coach Dallas Eakins as the heavy favorite to take over as head coach in Anaheim next season, the future could be bright for Benoit if he can continue his dependable defensive play. The Ducks have lost Shea Theodore, Sami Vatanen, Marcus Pettersson, and Brandon Montour from their blue line in the last 18 months, opening up the door for prospects to play a bigger role moving forward. With Anaheim’s cap crunch so tight, they are unlikely to make many major additions on the back end this off-season either. With just three core defensemen remaining and signed through next season, it is very likely that there could be three, if not four or five, spots on the Ducks blue line up for grabs in training camp next year. Benoit will certainly throw his hat in the ring and at the very least could earn his NHL debut at some point in the 2019-20 season.