NEW YORK (AP) - Martin Straka could've called it quits, gone back home to the Czech Republic, or chased a big free-agent deal.
Instead, the 34-year-old forward - who is enjoying one of his finest NHL seasons - is sticking with the New York Rangers. Straka agreed to a one-year contract extension on Wednesday that will pay the centre US$3.3 million next season - a $200,000 raise. Straka was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
The deal rewards Straka for his breakout offensive season. He has 24 goals in 47 games, tied with Brendan Shanahan for the team lead and two more than he netted in 82 games last season - his first with the Rangers.
Straka also has 55 points, one more than last season and second most on the Rangers, just four fewer than Jaromir Jagr. He came to New York right after the lockout on a one-year deal and made the most of the new rules that favour quick skaters by cutting down on clutching and grabbing - a huge advantage for a player who stands just five-foot-nine and already has 13 NHL seasons on his resume.
Straka will be working on his third straight one-year deal, and that is how he likes it. He entertained thoughts of returning home and calling it a career, but decided another year - at least - in New York was the best move.
"I love it here. But it can happen fast. I like to go year by year," Straka said earlier this month. "Then you try to push yourself a little bit more. I guess maybe, if you sign for two years, you're going to say, 'Oh, I've got one more year, I don't have to play as well this year."'
Straka is far from done. He is tied for eighth in goals in the NHL, 11th in points and is a plus-14. He scored five game-winners already this season, and posted his sixth career hat trick in a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 4.
"Night in and night out, he's a clear example of the work habits that we want to display," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "He's a genuine, sincere guy. He's a soft-spoken, humble man. But he comes to work.
"He really does epitomize, in a lot of ways, what we want to be here - just with the level of humility he operates with and how hard he works on the ice."
Straka hit the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career, and the second straight after going three seasons without one. Earlier this season he posted an 11-game point streak in which he tallied seven goals and 12 assists.
In 859 NHL games with the Rangers, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, the New York Islanders, Florida, and Los Angeles, Straka has posted 238 goals and 661 points. He is a two-time 30-goal scorer with a career-best 35 in the 1998-99 season with Pittsburgh.