Compact yet endowed with extraordinary skill, speed, and vision, Martin Straka epitomizes the ideal supporting scorer. Teaming up with hockey luminaries such as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Luc Robitaille, Ziggy Palffy, and more, Straka consistently proved himself as the player to step up and fill the gaps. This was evident during his time with the New York Rangers.
Before the Rangers, Straka, drafted 19th overall by the Penguins in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, played for multiple teams in his 15-year NHL career. After a productive season with the Penguins, he experienced a decline in the 1994-95 season, leading to a trade to the Ottawa Senators in April 1995.
Within a year, he was traded again to the New York Islanders in a complex deal involving multiple players and teams. Following his time with the Islanders, he joined the Florida Panthers in 1996 but was not re-signed after the 1996–97 season. Straka then returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins starting in the 1997–98 season.
In 1998-99 he set new career highs, logging 35 goals and 48 assists, but his second season was less successful, he had established himself as one of the league’s premiere two-way players due to his explosive speed and on-ice vision. With the return of Mario Lemieux, he would go on to have a career year during the 2000–2001 season for Pittsburgh as he amassed 27 goals and 95 points in 82 games.
In the following season of 2001-02, his speedy reputation would be called into jeopardy after a season-ending injury in the form of a broken leg, an injury which would take him years to fully recover from. On November 30, 2003, in a cost-cutting move, the Penguins would deal Straka to the Los Angeles Kings for Russian prospect Sergei Anshakov and defenceman Martin Strbak.
Later, on August 2, 2005, Straka inked a deal as a free agent with the Rangers and delivered two fruitful seasons, amassing 70 points each. During these two seasons, he meshed well with linemates Jaromir Jagr and center Michael Nylander. The trio formed one of the more dominant lines the Rangers had seen, as they were the three who helped elevate those first few post-lockout Rangers rosters. Whether he was speeding down the ice, or parking himself in front of the net, Jagr and Nylander always found a way to find Straka and he produced.
Despite initial retirement considerations, on January 17, 2007, he committed to a one-year contract extension for the 2007–08 season. A significant milestone happened on February 16, 2008, during a match against the Buffalo Sabres, where Straka notched his 700th NHL point by assisting on a goal. Straka would finish his final season in New York totaling 14 goals and 27 assists, racking up 41 points, along with scoring three playoff goals.
Straka would go back home to the Czech Republic (now Czechia) and finish his playing career in 2014. While he was only here for three seasons, Straka contributed a lot to the Rangers and there’s certainly a lot to look back on from his time here.