A tumbling Canadian dollar hits north of the 49th parallel, while a reworked lease in South Florida gives the Panthers a new lease on life.
A depressed Canadian dollar is obviously not good business for anyone in the NHL. With Canadian teams driving a good portion of the league’s revenues and the $5.2 billion television deal begin paid to the league in Canadian funds, every drop in the dollar represents revenue lost for the league.
And that is no more evident than it is in Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of NHL franchise values for 2016. Of the 30 NHL teams, only eight of them saw their franchise value decrease over the past year – the New Jersey Devils and all seven Canadian franchises. The Vancouver Canucks saw the most precipitous drop league-wide, with its value going down 6.1 percent to $700 million. Among Canadian teams, the Edmonton Oilers experienced the lowest drop, by 2.3 percent to $445 million, a loss that was mitigated largely due to the fact they moved into Rogers Place this season.
To the surprise of no one, the New York Rangers are the most valuable franchise in the league, with an overall value of $1.25 billion, up 4.2 percent from last year. They’re followed by two Canadian teams – the Montreal Canadiens at $1.12 billion (down 4.7 percent) and the Toronto Maple Leafs at $1.1 billion (down 4.4 percent).
“The (Canadian) dollar has had a huge impact on that for sure,” said Forbes executive editor Mike Ozanian, who compiles the list. “Over the past four years we’ve done this, it has gone from parity to 90 cents on the dollar to 83 to 75.”
The Canadian dollar is currently trading in the 75-cent range and most forecasters don’t expect that to change drastically over the next year or so, which means Canadian franchises, while still very valuable in the grand scheme of things, might not see any rise in their value in the next little while. The Canucks are the seventh most valuable franchise, with the Oilers checking in at No. 14, the Calgary Flames at 16, the Ottawa Senators at 20 and Winnipeg Jets at 21.
There were some interesting teams on the list, notably the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders. The Panthers are No. 29 on the list, ahead of only the Carolina Hurricanes, but saw their value rise a league-high 26 percent to $235 million this year. That’s in large part due to a deal that the team cut with Broward County last year which will see it receive $86 million in tourist taxes over the next 13 years as well as getting almost all the revenue created by the BB&T Center in exchange for the development rights to 140 acres around the arena that Panthers owner Vinnie Viola transferred back to the county. It also helped that the Panthers made the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years and their local television numbers were better. (The latter doesn’t help much now because the Panthers’ local TV deal still has five years go and much of that money was paid up front to previous owners.)
Even though the deal with Broward County runs through 2028, the Panthers have an out-clause that would allow them to relocate after the 2022-23 season if they lose more than $100 million between last season and 2021-22 and give one year's notice. “They basically monetized the land and they’re more portable now,” Ozanian said. “I’m not saying they are going to leave, but it is a plus.”
Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko said he disagrees with Forbes numbers, but did acknowledge that the Panthers have increased in their value due to more stable ownership, a better product on the ice and the deal with Broward County. What the deal with the county does, Luukko said, was give the Panthers, “a lease that’s more commensurate with the times.” As far as the effect it has had on the bottom line, Luukko said the Panthers are still losing money, “we’re definitely cutting into those.” The Panthers said they lost $36 million in 2014-15.
The Islanders were another team that saw its franchise value spike upward, despite the fact that it ranks second-last in NHL attendance and its valuation by Forbes is $385 million, which is $100 million lower than the announced selling price when Charles Wang sold the team two years ago. Ozanian said the Islanders revenues from the Barclays Center are only in the $50 million range and the owners are carrying a considerable amount of debt, playing at Barclays has mitigated some of the team’s losses. “It’s a weird situation,” Ozanian said.
Overall, Ozanian said the league’s franchise values have been helped by the Rogers television deal, the league’s seven percent ownership in BamTech (which could increase to 12 percent) as part of its deal with MLB Advanced Media and an owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement. The Forbes numbers, it should be noted, are based on the revenues and expenses of all teams, including the arena’s economics as they pertain to the owner of the team. (Which explains why the Rangers come out on top.) Based on that formula, each team averages about $15 million in operating income, but almost half that total income of about $450 million ($219 million) is accounted for by the Rangers, Canadiens and Leafs.
The magazine, meanwhile, valued the Pittsburgh Penguins at $570 million, which is almost $200 million less than owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux were seeking last season. And that’s with $26 million in operating income and a team that has strong revenue potential for the next couple of years. But generally, the future looks pretty favorable, the Canadian dollar notwithstanding.
“I think that even the lower revenue teams have benefitted,” Ozanian said. “Arguably, it has benefitted them the most because it’s more plausible for them to turn a profit.”
NHL FRANCHISE VALUES*
1. New York Rangers: $1.25 billion (+4.2%)
2. Montreal Canadiens: $1.12 billion (-4.7%)
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: $1.1 billion (-4.4%)
4. Chicago Blackhawks: $985 million ( - )
5. Boston Bruins: $800 million (+6.6%)
6. Philadelphia Flyers: $720 million (+9.1%)
7. Vancouver Canucks: $700 million (-6.1%)
8. Detroit Red Wings: $625 million (+4.2%)
9. Los Angeles Kings: $600 million (+3.4%)
10. Pittsburgh Penguins: $570 million (+1.8%)
- Washington Capitals: $570 million (+0.8%)
12. Dallas Stars: $500 million (+11%)
13. San Jose Sharks: $470 million (+5.5%)
14. Edmonton Oilers: $445 million (-2.3%)
15. Anaheim Ducks: $415 million (+3.6%)
16. Calgary Flames: $410 million (-5.8%)
17. Minnesota Wild: $400 million (+5.3%)
18. New York Islanders: $385 million (+18%)
19. Colorado Avalanche: $360 million ( - )
20. Ottawa Senators: $355 million (-4%)
21. Winnipeg Jets: $340 million (-3%)
22. New Jersey Devils: $320 million (-3%)
23. St. Louis Blues: $310 million (+15%)
24. Tampa Bay Lightning: $305 million (+17%)
25. Buffalo Sabres: $300 million ( - )
26. Nashville Predators: $270 million (+5.9%)
27. Columbus Blue Jackets: $245 million (+8.4%)
28. Arizona Coyotes: $240 million (+9.1%)
29. Florida Panthers: $235 million (+26%)
30. Carolina Hurricanes: $230 million (+2.2%)
* Source: Forbes magazine