'Forbes' values Maple Leafs at $1 billion; Blues lowest franchise value

The Leafs play to full crowds on a nightly basis. (Getty Images)

The annual Forbes valuation list of all 30 NHL franchises was released on Wednesday, and it should come as no surprise that the Toronto Maple Leafs once again top the list.

The list, which comes on Day 74 of the NHL lockout when all franchises are stonewalled, is led by the Leafs despite the fact that they are the only team that didn't make the playoffs in the past seven seasons. Forbes estimates the Leafs' value at $1 billion.

You'll recall that the Leafs were recently sold for a massive price of $2.05 billion from the Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment to Bell and Rogers media companies. Of course that sale price also included the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and the Air Canada Centre as well. But the Leafs were the clear prize in that package, with a waiting list for season tickets despite the lack of on-ice success, so that's where the $1 billion valuation comes from. It's estimated half of that $2.05 billion was just for the Leafs.

The top five is rounded out by the suspects you would expect, the big moneymakers in the NHL.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs, $1 billion
2. New York Rangers, $750 million
3. Montreal Canadiens, $575 million
4. Chicago Blackhawks, $350 million
5. Boston Bruins, $348 million

The top three blow all the other teams in the NHL away when in terms of revenue each season. The large majority of the operating income comes from those three teams -- 83 percent to be exact, according to the Forbes report.

The lockout going on right now isn't so much about those teams -- although Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is a well-known hard-liner -- but the teams on the other end of the spectrum. And that's a wide, wide spectrum. From Mike Ozanian:

There is also an incredible bifurcation of cash flow. Overall operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) almost doubled during the 2011-12 season, to $250 million. But the sport’s three most profitable teams–Maple Leafs ($81.9 million), Rangers ($74 million), Canadians ($51.6 million)–accounted for 83% of the league’s income, while 13 of 30 teams lost money, before non-cash expenses and interest payments.

So which teams are at the bottom? You can probably guess some, but No. 30 might come as a surprise.

26. Carolina Hurricanes, $162 million
27. New York Islanders, $155 million
28. Columbus Blue Jackets, $145 million
29. Phoenix Coyotes, $134 million
30. St. Louis Blues, $130 million

The Blues below the Coyotes? Well, those are pretty easy to put a value on considering each team was either recently sold or is close to being sold. The Blues were recently purchased by Tom Stillman for just $130 million, a price that also included part of the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.

With that said, I think we all know which franchise has the greater potential for a return on your investment. The Coyotes, on the other hand, don't seem to have quite the same potential.

But with an owners gain in the revenue department via CBA negotiations and increased revenue sharing, the values of the bottom teams are likely to rise, so there's that.

Forbes also had a couple of other lists including the highest-paid players -- on and off the ice. Considering hockey players don't get the same level of endorsements as stars in, say, basketball or football, it seems the list mirrors the top salaries. Leading the list, as you could probably predict, are Sidney Crosby first and Alex Ovechkin second.

Finally they listed the 30 fan bases in best-to-worst order. The best? Not those loyal Leafs fans. That title actually goes to the Pittsburgh Penguins. At No. 30? Well, there you have the Phoenix Coyotes.

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