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Sabres’ O’Reilly facing impaired driving charge

Just six days after signing the richest contract in franchise history, Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly was arrested last week and charged with driving a motor vehicle while ability impaired and leaving the scene of an accident after his pickup truck reportedly rammed into a Tim Hortons cafe in Lucan, Ont.

The incident took place last Thursday morning at approximately 4:05 a.m. and was announced Monday night by the Ontario Provincial Police’s Middlesex County detachment. It was first reported by radio station CFPL-AM in London, Ont.

According to Middlesex County OPP, O’Reilly’s 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck struck the Tim Hortons on Richmond Street in Lucan, a township of about 4,500 located roughly a half-hour north of London. Police say O’Reilly continued to drive the vehicle for a short time before abandoning it and moving on foot with an unnamed male passenger.

Police said witnesses assisted in locating the truck. O’Reilly and the passenger were found walking on Main Street, less than a mile away. O’Reilly was charged and given an appearance ticket in court in London for Aug. 20. The passenger was not charged.

Under Canada’s Highway Traffic Act, O’Reilly faces penalties for leaving the scene that could include a maximum of six months in jail, a fine of between $400 and $2,000, seven demerit points on his license and a suspended license for up to two years.

O’Reilly’s blood alcohol reading was over 80 mg, equivalent to .08 in the United States, thus meaning he is subject to an immediate 90-day suspension of his license. If convicted, he faces a fine of $1,000 & license ban of 1 year.

“We are aware of the reports regarding the incident involving Ryan O’Reilly last week,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement issued by the team late Monday night. “We are currently in the process of gathering more information and will have no further comment until we have spoken with all parties involved.”

The statement did not make it clear if the team just found out about the arrest on Monday or if Murray was aware of the situation during the team’s development camp that wrapped up Sunday in First Niagara Center. O’Reilly’s agent, Pat Morris, did not respond to text messages seeking comment.

A night supervisor who answered the phone at the Tim Hortons said she had been instructed not to discuss the incident, which saw damage done to the glass entrance area of the cafe. She referred The News to corporate offices in Oakville, Ont., which were closed for the day.

The police report does not indicate who was in the car with O’Reilly. His older brother, Cal, signed a two-year, $1.4 million free-agent deal with the Sabres earlier this month and is expected to be a key player this season for the Rochester Amerks.

O’Reilly signed a seven-year, $52.5-million contract extension with the Sabres on July 3 after being acquired on draft night from the Colorado Avalanche in one of the biggest trades in franchise history. He came to Buffalo along with Jamie McGinn for Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, J.T. Compher and the No. 31 overall pick in the draft.

The extension kicks in next season and runs through 2022-23. O’Reilly will make $6.2 million this season with a cap hit of $6 million in the final year of his deal originally signed with the Avalanche. His cap hit going forward will be $7.5 million and he will make $11 million – including a $10 million signing bonus – in the first year of the contract with Buffalo.

O’Reilly won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2014, awarded to the NHL’s most gentlemanly player. He is expected to be the Sabres’ No. 1 center and immediately become the club’s top two-way pivotman.

O’Reilly featured the vintage pickup truck on his Instagram page in May with a caption of “Got my new truck.” Several Twitter users, meanwhile, noticed that O’Reilly had deleted his account on that social media platform sometime in the last few days.

In explaining the delay to issue the arrest, a spokesperson for the Middlesex OPP said she issued several arrest reports on Monday, standard practice for the small township. O’Reilly is from Bluewater, Ont., about 45 minutes from London.

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In other Sabres news, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya is reportedly close to making a decision on his future. Don Meehan, the agent for the unrestricted free agent, told the Chicago Tribune on Monday that Oduya could make a decision as soon as Tuesday about where he will play.

It is known that Oduya would like to remain with the Blackhawks, with whom he’s won two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons, but Chicago may not be able to fit him under the salary cap.

The Sabres and Boston Bruins are expected to be vying for the services of the 33-year-old, one of the four key defenseman in Chicago’s Cup run this spring.

The Sabres also signed forward Phil Varone to a one-year, two-way deal to avoid arbitration. An NHL source said Varone agreed to a $600,000 NHL deal (up from last year’s $595,000) and it’s likely the AHL portion of his deal is substantially higher than the $62,500 he made last season.

email mharrington@buffnews.com

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