In announcing the new plan, Chesapeake said it hoped to be cash-flow neutral by the end of this year.
"If gas prices stabilize, and I have them stabilizing, my model shows that their [negative cash flow] this year will be a few million dollars," Dingmann said.
Dingmann's analysis assumes that natural gas commands about $2.95 per million BTUs by the end of this year and $3.12 next year, with oil staying around $50 per barrel this year and $53 in 2016. If that happens, then the company can keep earnings before interest, taxes and non-cash charges between $3.5 billion and $4 billion each year, though it would still run a deficit after capital spending is included, he said.
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But a real rebound in Chesapeake shares is likely to require more than what the company announced.
"Four-dollar gas would help a lot," Rezvan said. Then he added, "A return to $80-a-barrel oil would be impactful, too."
Chesapeake shares have fallen 39 percent in the last year, falling in between the decline in large-cap energy, down by roughly 25 percent, and the small-cap energy stocks, which are down by roughly half.
The low prices have put pressure on Chesapeake's strategy, which like many drillers calls for spending more on drilling new wells than the company generates in operating cash flow each year. The resulting deficit in free cash flow—or operating cash minus capital investment—was at risk of getting untenably large. That's why some analysts, like Rezvan, have been telling investors to consider Chesapeake a sector "underperformer" both before and after the latest Chesapeake spending-cut announcement.
But we know at least one noted investor wasn't listening—when it comes to Chesapeake, Icahn continues to buy into the bullish story, especially when it's at a bottom.
"Guys like Icahn, traditionally with an activist bent, are establishing more sizable positions in some oil and gas stocks," Dingmann said. The SunTrust analyst said it was surprising, to some extent, that Icahn never took any money off the table when the stock more than doubled from 2012 to 2014, but it could simply be an indication he believes that Chesapeake's far-flung acreage is still worth more than the $32 high share price in 2014, and that the current macro situation will not create a long-term valuation readjustment downward in acreage value.
In the two year period, new CEO Lawler did make some large transactions, including the $5 billion sales of assets to Southwestern Energy, so as the stock was rising Chesapeake was also making some moves to get its house in order, and there was less reason to be a vocal activist. Of course, the crash in oil and decline in natural gas has made those gains disappear quickly, but the macro might not change the underlying thesis of an investor like Icahn. Dingmann also noted that even though Chesapeake has made a significant effort to increase the oil component of its overall production, it is still significantly levered to natural gas. "There aren't too many bullish natural gas investors today, but to add to a position like this, I have to think Icahn is one of them," Dingmann said.
—By Tim Mullaney, special to CNBC.com