Buffalo Sabres lock up young center Dylan Cozens for 7 years

Dylan Cozens makes a nice deke for a Sabres goal (0:49)

Dylan Cozens makes a nice deke to get past a Ducks defender for the score as the Sabres lead 2-0. (0:49)

The Buffalo Sabres locked up another key member of their core on Tuesday, signing forward Dylan Cozens to a seven-year, $49.7 million extension.

Cozens was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

His new deal comes on the heels of Buffalo inking Tage Thompson to a seven-year, $50 million contract last summer. Now the Sabres have their projected top two centers of the present -- and future -- in Cozens and Thompson wrapped up long term.

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams also extended top-pairing defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million pact earlier this year, again showing Buffalo's commitment to building from within.

The Sabres drafted Cozens, 21, seventh overall in the 2019 NHL entry draft. He joined the NHL ranks in the 2020-21 season and has since appeared in 169 games with 34 goals and 94 points.

It was this season, though, when Sabres head coach Don Granato noticed a true difference in Cozens' maturity, both on and off the ice. That has coincided with Cozens producing career-best numbers at 17 goals and 43 points in 49 games.

"I keep saying the same thing about him, it's [his] compete," said Granato in December. "Couple that with [the] love of the game that he has, the love of the game [of] hockey. He competes for the right reason, being in a team sport. He brings guys in with him, he drags people into the fight, per se, which is a real indicator of his leadership and leadership ability going forward."

Cozens' contract could now become a comparable for other young stars around the league as well. Montreal's Cole Caufield -- who is out for the remainder of this season following shoulder surgery -- and Anaheim's Trevor Zegras are both impending RFA's facing critical negotiations of their own in the coming months.