Ryan O’Reilly was arrested just days after signing the largest contract in Sabres history. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Strong words already haunting Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly

In Ryan O’Reilly’s first comments after the Sabres acquired him, the center discussed his desire to assume a leadership role in Buffalo.

Those words – “With the Sabres I have to be a more vocal guy, be that more off-ice leader and on-ice as well,” he said June 29 – are already haunting the 24-year-old.

Ten days after speaking and just six days after signing a seven-year, $52.5 million contract, O’Reilly was arrested and charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident Thursday after his pickup truck allegedly hit a Tim Hortons in Lucan, Ont.

O’Reilly, who has an August 20 court date, could also be disciplined by the NHL.

“No formal process has been commenced” into O’Reilly’s incident, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote Tuesday in an email to the Times Herald. “But we are trying to get a better handle of the facts and what transpired. Mr. O’Reilly has also been referred for evaluation in accordance with the terms of the NHL/NHLPA SABH Program.”

The Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program helps players in trouble with the law or with other issues.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, under Article 18-A of the collective bargain agreement, can discipline players for conduct “detrimental to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey.” A player can be suspended, have his contract canceled or fined up to $10,000.

Bettman suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov following a domestic violence charge Oct. 20 under Article 18-A.5, which states “failure to suspend the player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”

Voynov sat out the rest of the season. He pleaded no contest July 2 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation.

Since O’Reilly’s blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millimeters of blood, his license was immediately suspended 90 days. He faces a $1,000 fine and a license suspension of one year if convicted.

Penalties under Canada’s Highway Traffic Act for leaving the scene include a fine of between $400-$2,000, a maximum of six months in jail, seven demerit points on a license and a suspended license for up to two years.

O’Reilly, a Canadian citizen, could also potentially face immigration issues.

The Sabres acquired O’Reilly and winger Jamie McGinn in a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL Draft on June 26, dealing center Mikhail Grigorenko, defenseman Nikita Zadorov, wing prospect J.T. Compher and the 31st pick.

O’Reilly signed the biggest contract in franchise history a week later. New Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has already said O’Reilly will be his No. 1 center. He has one year and $6 million left on his current contract and is scheduled to make $11 million in 2016-17.

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