The Flyers traded a veteran goalie late Wednesday. No, it wasn’t Brian Elliott, who has been very steady this season, serving primarily as Carter Hart’s backup.
It was Phantoms goalie J.F. Berube, who was dealt to the New York Rangers for future considerations.
The deal paved the way for promising goalie Kirill Ustimenko to be promoted from Reading of the East Coast Hockey League to the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
A Belarus native, Ustimenko, 21, was selected by the Flyers in the third round (80th overall) of the 2017 draft. He spent the previous three years playing on a junior level in Russia’s Junior Hockey League.
Playing in his first pro season, he has been impressive at Reading, compiling a 19-4-5 record with a 2.40 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He was the ECHL’s goalie of the month in January.
“We may be as deep as any team in the league in young goalies,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Hart, 21, is the Flyers’ primary goalie, and Ustimenko and 23-year-old Felix Sandstrom are also on the radar. But the promising Sandstrom (3.36 GAA, .886 save percentage) has struggled to find his footing with Reading.
Ustimenko made his AHL debut for the Phantoms on Feb. 8 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, making 38 saves in a 5-3 win, before being sent back to Reading.
With the deal and subsequent move, Alex Lyon (2.64 GAA, .913 save percentage) and Ustimenko are the Phantoms’ goalies. Lyon, 27, has played three games with the Flyers this season.
Berube, 28, who has played 34 NHL games (Islanders, Blackhawks) in his career, was 12-11-4 in his first season at Lehigh Valley. He had a 2.56 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
On Thursday, the Phantoms acquired goalie Tom McCollum (2.37 GAA, .906 save percentage), 30, from Hartford, for future considerations. He was sent to Reading.
The Flyers sent defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the Phantoms on Thursday for a conditioning stint. He recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and has played just once in the last 16 games.
Gostisbehere’s knee has been feeling better lately, but he said last week he thought a rehab stint would be beneficial. The Florida native missed 10 games because of surgery, then returned for one game but wasn’t effective. He has since missed five more games.
“Just looking at our schedule, [there’s] no practice time — or barely any practice time,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “[Fletcher] talked to him after our last game and asked him how he felt about it. He was all for it. He had skated with us yesterday. He’s going to practice with them today. [He] will play Friday and Saturday, then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”
He has just 12 points, including five goals, in 41 games this season.
Nolan Patrick has been taking part in battle drills at practice, and Fletcher reiterated on SiriusXM NHL radio that he expects the center to play this season. “He hasn’t been cleared for full contact, but we’re working that way,” Fletcher said.
Patrick, 21, has missed the entire season because of a migraine disorder.
“We’re approaching it that if we get him back, it’s a bonus,” Fletcher said. “I do believe he’ll come back.”