So you’ve got an extra $500M hanging out in your bank account and you have an interest in owning a franchise in the best league in professional sports? You are presented with two options. 1) Buy an expansion team and bring them to Las Vegas. 2) Buy the Hurricanes and keep them in Carolina. Which way should you go? (Spoiler: This is a website that covers the Vegas Golden Knights. You already know our answer.)
The rumors are swirling in Carolina that Peter Karmonos Jr. is close to selling the team to former Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg. The asking price should sound very familiar for Golden Knights fans. Of course while writing this article Forbes put out a story calling the Bloomberg report fake news, but who are we to get in the way of the McGregor/Mayweather battle of business website reports.
The first thing to realize when comparing which franchise is the better buy is the fact that $500M does not equal $500M when it comes to these two organizations. There’s a massive operating cost to get an expansion team to the same organizational framework as a team that’s been in Raleigh since 1997 and been in the NHL since 1972. Vegas needed a staff, an office, a practice facility, retirement plans, health care options, and a ton of “start-up business” marketing. It’s just an estimate based on what we know about the organization, but we believe The Creator is over $1 billion into the Golden Knights franchise, and their first game is still 84 days away.
Back to the Hurricanes. In cutting a check to the Karmanos family for $500M, what are you actually getting? First, a fully operational organization from team president to street teamers. Next is a hockey history. Now I’m not about to go out and say it’s a rich one, but the Hurricanes do have more Stanley Cups than the Capitals, Sharks, Senators, Predators, Panthers, Sabres, Canucks, Blues, and… the Golden Knights. Last is a roster of players and a pretty solid one at that.
But, the Hurricanes are ranked last in value on the Forbes “Business of Hockey List.” According to Forbes, they operate at a $15M a year deficit. They have the worst attendance in the NHL, filling just 64% of the building a night, and the team hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2009.
I’d go through why Vegas blows all of that out of the water, but you already know, so just chalk that one up for the Golden Knights.
Which brings us back to the rosters. Obviously, the Hurricanes are going to have a better team on the ice in 2017-18 than the Golden Knights, but are they closer to winning a Stanley Cup?
Carolina had a big offseason, improving their team tremendously, with a lot of help from Vegas in fact. They kicked off the Summer by trading for Scott Darling then signing him to a four-year deal. Carolina then added Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marcus Kruger via trade from the Golden Knights. Finally, they signed Justin Williams via free agency to a two-year $9M contract.
The Hurricanes have a nice young core of Sebastian Aho, Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen, Victor Rask, and Elias Lindholm, and signing Jaccob Slavin to the long-term deal looks like it’ll be a steal in a few years.
Simply put, the Hurricanes are ready for a trip to the playoffs but are probably not set up to win the Cup this year or next. However, as much as we want to get excited about Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, or any of the Golden Knights draft picks, the Hurricanes have more talent currently, and more talent coming through the ranks in the next few years than the Golden Knights do… right now.
All in all, the value is undoubtedly in the corner of the Golden Knights when it comes to the better long term investment. You know what you are getting with the Hurricanes, and unless they suddenly turn it around and start winning playoff series every year, it’s a losing proposition. The Golden Knights cost way more, and are probably not in line for a Cup for quite a while, but the return on investment is likely to be much better. However, if Forbes is right and the price is more like $200-300M, Carolina might end up looking like a steal when compared to Vegas.
But don’t forget VGK fans, if you bought the Golden Knights, they never had to be named the Golden Knights… cause that’s how it works.