ESPN’s downsizing initiative has claimed another victim with Chris Chelios reportedly the latest casualty of the network’s ongoing budget cuts. A three-time Stanley Cup champion, Chelios was hired in 2021, which coincided with ESPN acquiring the NHL’s broadcasting rights. ESPN’s other studio analysts include New York Rangers great Mark Messier and former Montreal Canadiens enforcer P.K. Subban.
According to intel gathered by Mike McCarthy and A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports, the decision not to renew Chelios’ contract was strictly business, having “nothing to do” with his performance. Adhering to cost-cutting measures mandated across all Disney platforms, ESPN is taking a hard look at its on-air roster, anticipating difficult decisions that could prompt a mass exodus from Bristol.
Though only a handful of personalities are seen as “untouchable”—Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt, Kirk Herbstreit, Pat McAfee, Mike Greenberg, Adam Schefter, Troy Aikman, Adrian Wojnarowski, Doris Burke and Joe Buck, to name a few—staffers on expiring deals are seen as “most vulnerable” along with high-paid vets and specialists who may work once or twice a week. Many have questioned the optics of ESPN lavishing McAfee with an eight-figure salary amid the company’s recent layoffs, prioritizing a flashy newcomer at the expense of long-time employees.
Chelios could continue his broadcast career elsewhere, perhaps at a competitor like TNT, though if he wants to return to coaching or help a team in an executive role, those avenues should also be available to him.