There's never been a bad time to own an NHL franchise, but it's looking like a particularly profitable endeavor lately.
According to the latest Sportico franchise valuation report, the average NHL team has increased in value by 29% over the last year, with a few clubs surpassing that growth by a significant margin. The team that has seen the biggest increase in value is the Carolina Hurricanes (+59%), while no franchise saw a smaller gain than the Winnipeg Jets (+15%).
In 2022, just 11 of the NHL's 32 teams were valued at $1 billion or more, while this year that number has jumped to 22. Part of the reasoning behind that change may be the fact that the Ottawa Senators — who ranked 27th in Sportico's valuation rankings prior to 2023 — sold for nearly $1 billion in June.
Here are some takeaways from the NHL franchise valuations:
The NHL's most valuable teams have remained constant
In the three years Sportico has been releasing franchise valuation rankings, the top of the chart has been locked in.
Not only have the same seven teams led the charge, they've remained in the same order since 2021:
Toronto Maple Leafs ($2.65 billion in 2023)
New York Rangers ($2.45 billion)
Montreal Canadiens ($2.27 billion)
Chicago Blackhawks ($1.84 billion)
Boston Bruins ($1.78 billion)
Los Angeles Kings ($1.72 billion)
Philadelphia Flyers ($1.7 billion)
There's no particular reason to believe this group will change in the immediate future, especially as each saw its valuation rise between 22% and 33% in 2023.
One team worth watching in this cohort is the Blackhawks, who could see a bump if Connor Bedard becomes a marketable generational superstar providing a reliable competitive floor for them in the years to come.
On-ice success isn't always correlated to changes
While the way teams perform has some bearing on franchise valuation, between 2022 and 2023 some of the movement was entirely divorced from on-ice results.
For example, the Dallas Stars dropped from 14th to 20th on the list thanks to a below-average increase in value (21%) despite the fact the team is coming off a deep playoff run and is well-positioned for the future.
On the other hand, the San Jose Sharks leapt four spots (from 26th to 22nd) despite being a dreadful team in 2022-23 and being years away from competing again.
Being continually awful or dominant may tip the scales over time, but it doesn't drive these valuations as much as other factors in the short term.
The bottom tier just experienced a surge
As mentioned, it seems likely that the sale of the Senators put upward pressure on valuations around the league — particularly for franchises previously considered to be comparable.
Five of the six teams at the bottom of the list experienced growth of 40% or more in 2023. The lone exception was the Jets, who are dealing with attendance issues and concerns about market size.
The Arizona Coyotes are in a tier of their own in terms of value, with their $675 million valuation 23% lower than any other team, but they still got a 45% bump.
The revenue gap is big, but not as big as the valuation gap
The difference between the top and bottom teams in revenue is significant. The top-three revenue-generating teams in the NHL — the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and Rangers — brought in $922 million in 2022-23. Meanwhile, the bottom-three squads — the Coyotes, Senators, and Columbus Blue Jackets — raked in $396 million.
That means the bottom feeders generated 42.9% of the top dogs' revenue, but those three teams are valued at just 34% the worth of Toronto, Montreal, and New York. That makes sense, as far more goes into valuation than just cash flow, but it's interesting that the NHL's top money makers aren't outpacing the teams that bring in the least by as much as you might expect.