No Cup, no problem: Maple Leafs remain NHL's most valuable team

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A four-decade Stanley Cup drought hasn't diminished the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs remain the NHL's most valuable team, according to figures released Thursday by Forbes. The Toronto franchise, which hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1967, is worth a whopping US$413 million - a 24 per cent increase over 2006.

All six Canadian franchises saw increases in value, part of a league-wide trend that saw 27 of 30 NHL teams enjoy a positive one-year change.

The Montreal Canadiens are fourth on the list at $283 million, a 23 per cent jump from a year ago. The Vancouver Canucks are ninth at $211 million, 10 per cent higher than 2006.

The Ottawa Senators sit 14th at $186 million, enjoying a 17 per cent increase, while the Calgary Flames leapt 21 per cent to $164 million, good for 18th in the league. The Edmonton Oilers wound up 20th, jumping eight per cent to $157 million.

The New York Rangers ($365 million) and Detroit Red Wings ($293 million) were second and third, according to Forbes, while the Dallas Stars rounded out the top five. The New Jersey Devils, buoyed by a new arena in Newark, had the largest one-year increase - vaulting 31 per cent to $195 million.

The Stanley Cup-champion Anaheim Ducks saw their value increase 25 per cent to $197 million.

The Philadelphia Flyers, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues were the only franchises to decrease in value from a year earlier.

The latest numbers indicate the league has thrived since the lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. According to Forbes, franchises have enjoyed an average value increase of 23 per cent, while the league has gone from an operating deficit of $96 million to a profit of $96 million.

While Canadian teams have benefited from a sharp increase in the value of the dollar, the league-wide profit is a result of teams spending less on player salaries. Forbes says player costs now account for 54 per cent of team revenue, down from 66 per cent during the 2003-04 season.

The Nashville Predators, at $143 million, have the lowest franchise value, Forbes said. They are worth $1 million less than the St. Louis Blues.

The Predators are currently up for sale, and team owner Craig Leipold gave local investors trying to buy the team more time last week to complete the purchase and keep the club in Nashville. The group put down $10 million as a deposit in August for the $193 million purchase and faced a midnight deadline Oct. 31 to finalize the sale or lose exclusive negotiating rights.

-With files from The Associated Press.



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