Forbes ranks Rangers as most valuable NHL franchise; Five teams at $1B+

Forbes ranks Rangers as most valuable NHL franchise; Five teams at $1B+
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While it’s important to take Forbes’ annual list of the most (and least) valuable NHL franchises with a grain of salt, the rankings are also seductively interesting. With that crucial caveat out of the way, note that the Rangers ranked as the most valuable NHL franchise by Forbes ($1.65B), beating the Maple Leafs ($1.5B). Meanwhile, the Coyotes, Panthers, and to some extent Blue Jackets jockeyed to stay out of last place.

Forbes lists Rangers as most valuable NHL franchise for 2020

Again, it’s crucial to stay calm with the Forbes list of most valuable NHL franchises.

As Jonathan Willis noted over the years, these are just estimates. After all, NHL teams aren’t giddy to share financial information with the public.

That said, there’s something to be said for perception, and also educated guesses.

By the Forbes’ 2020 list estimates, five NHL teams are worth at least $1 billion: the Rangers ($1.65B), Maple Leafs ($1.5B), Canadiens ($1.34B), Blackhawks ($1.085B), and Bruins ($1B).

After that top five, the Kings ($825M) and Flyers ($800) round out the teams worth at least $800M, according to Forbes. There are 10 teams worth at least $700M by Forbes estimates, with the Capitals ($750M) and Canucks ($725M) making that cut.

Beyond sheer value, it’s interesting to see Forbes estimates of revenue and operating income.

For instance, take the reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning. On one hand, they’re merely ranked 21st value-wise at $470M. From there, their financial details present a mixed bag of good ($125M in operating revenue) and not-so-good (-$8.3M in operating income). Perhaps that’s evidence of the price to contend in a “non-traditional market?”

Forbes ranks Coyotes, Panthers, and Blue Jackets as least-valuable NHL franchises

Sure, fans might want their team to be ranked No. 1, but ranking last probably brings out the truest angst.

(That’s where maybe it’s wise to once again circle back to that “grain of salt” talk?)

If nothing else, it’s intriguing to ponder the teams that fall in the lower range of value. Here’s the bottom five, from lowest to highest ranks, via Forbes:

While the Coyotes ranked last in value ($285M), the Panthers’ situation may be more troubling, with less estimated revenue ($92M vs. $95M for Coyotes), and greater losses in operating income (-$29M for Panthers, -$17M for Coyotes).

By Forbes’ estimates, 16 NHL teams were in the positive in operating income, with 15 negative. (Granted, the Flames were a modest +$400K.)

According to that list, the Islanders (ranked 16th at $520M; estimated $93M in revenue), sported a -$38M in operating income, the worst in that category. (Considering the likelihood of the Islanders sorting out their arena woes, this probably isn’t too worrisome.)

Once you get past the top 15 NHL franchises, the factors really start to vary.

It will be interesting, really, to see if the Lightning and Avalanche (22nd at $465M, $115M estimated revenue, -$10M operating income) can raise their franchise value if the wins keep coming. To many, the Avalanche look like the team of the future, but franchise values demand more than dark horse/critical darling statuses. Of course, deep playoff runs can really drive up that revenue.

COVID: the biggest caveat of them all

Throughout this article, it’s been important to sprinkle those grains of salt. But beyond lacking concrete information, NHL franchise values could stagnate or sink depending upon the lasting impact of COVID.

We’ve already seen the pandemic throw off the 2019-20 season, and the 2020-21 season could really be called 2021-21. Will the league get its way and hold a (fairly?) typical, 82-game season in 2021-22? Even if that goes smoothly, will there be a ripple effect?

On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun followed up on positive news about the NHL and NHLPA hashing out crucial financial details, thus targeting Jan. 13 as the start date for the 2020-21 season. LeBrun noted that some NHL owners may not be so happy that the 2020-21 season is planned to go on without additional salary deferrals from players (subscription required):

How many owners will be angry enough about not getting more financial concessions that they want to vote “no” on the season? You wouldn’t think enough to derail a season, but there are certainly some owners who aren’t happy with this turn of events. They felt they needed more salary deferral from the players to get through this year.

Considering limitations of fans in attendance, those revenue and operating income columns could get gruesome for 2021. And NHL franchise values could tumble with them.

Ultimately, the Forbes NHL franchise value list provides some interesting estimates to chew on. Chances are, there are plenty of details that remain unknown. As far back as 2010, leaked financial documents revealed that MLB teams were doing better than people thought.

At least at this time, we — and Forbes — can only really guess how much each NHL team is worth. And, in the event that one gets sold, all that really matters is how much someone would be willing to pay to own that team.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today
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    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.